Can Humidity Make Your Chest Feel Tight?

If you can’t breathe well when humid weather sets in, it shows there is a relationship between high humidity and shortness of breath.

So can high humidity cause shortness of breath? When there is more water content in the air, there are fewer oxygen molecules. If you engage in physical activity, you experience shortness of breath faster. So yes, high humidity causes breathing issues.

In another article, we looked at the effects of high humidity on the body. There are quite a handful, and some are serious.

Disclaimer: This post is only intended to inform you. If you have breathing complications, please see a doctor immediately.

The best thing is to maintain good relative humidity when you are indoors, which is between 35 and 55%.

This will keep you, your kids, and your pets comfortable. It will also maintain the condition of your furniture, electronics, paintings, books, and wall paint.

Humidity and shortness of breath explained

Image of How does humidity affect breathing

Now that we have seen that there is a relationship between humidity and shortness of breath, we need to also find out whether low humidity can cause this.

If you have trouble breathing in humid weather, you are suffering from what is known as hyperpnea. In this condition, you tend to inhale bigger amounts of air.

The reason for this is that the water molecules in the air take the place of the oxygen molecules.

Therefore, in high humidity, you inhale air that has less oxygen.

Some people have a hard time breathing in humid weather. Some people have problems breathing in low-humidity conditions.

Why is it difficult to breathe in humidity?

The simple answer is that when there is high humidity in the air, your lungs will not have enough space to breathe.

When there is more water content in the air, it displaces the oxygen molecules. Therefore, for every breath of air you take, it contains less oxygen. Thus, you have to struggle to breathe faster to make up for the less oxygen.

That is why you find yourself panting for breath after engaging in even a small physical exercise when it is summer and the humidity is high.

In our article on whether 70 percent humidity is too high outside, we saw that high temperature holds more humidity and makes people very uncomfortable. That is why most people find it hard to exercise in summer.

Why is it hard to breathe in hot air?

The main reason is that hotter air can hold more water vapor than cold air. Of course, relative humidity gets its definition from the amount of water vapor that air can hold at a given temperature.

For instance, if your indoor temperature is 28°C and the air holds 50 percent of the maximum water vapor that it can hold at that temperature, then we say that the relative humidity is 50%.

If the air holds the maximum water vapor that it can hold at that temperature, then we say the relative humidity is 100 percent.

Image of why is it hard to breath in hot air

This also explains why, in most cases, we need to run a humidifier in summer. The air is hotter then, and the water vapor that it holds is higher. Thus, to give our lungs the amount of oxygen that they need, we have to breathe in more rapidly.

During the cold season, the air is drier. Dry air is also not good for the lungs, so we crank up the dehumidifier. We need to maintain the relative humidity at 55% in the winter.

Can low humidity make it hard to breathe?

So much is said about how high humidity makes it hard to breathe, but can low humidity also make it hard to breathe?

Well, according to an article on webMD, for people who have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, high or low humidity is bad for this condition. For instance, dry air can cause inflammation and irritation of the airways.

High humidity makes the air denser and harder to breathe. Therefore, you have to work extra hard to inhale. Most indoor allergens, such as mold and dust mites, also thrive when there is high humidity.

Thus, you need to maintain a balanced humidity indoors. It should never be out of the range of 30 to 50 percent. Some sources also say 35 to 55 percent.

Can humidity cause shortness of breath? (FAQ

It would seem that maintaining the right relative humidity is everything, for health reasons. Here are some of the questions that people ask regarding their inability to breathe well in humid conditions:

Is there less oxygen in humid air?

Yes, there are fewer oxygen molecules in humid air since they are displaced by water molecules. You have to take in more air than usual for your lungs to get enough oxygen.

That is why you experience panting and rapid breathing after jogging, walking, or running in humid air.

Can high heat and humidity cause shortness of breath?

High heat means hotter air, and this holds more water vapor than cold air. People who have COPD suffer more in this kind of weather, but even healthy people might experience breath shortness in high heat and high humidity conditions.

can high heat and humidity cause shortness of breath

Why does humid air feel uncomfortable?

Because high humidity feels warmer, it tricks your body that it is overheating, and so the body attempts to cool down by sweating.

Unfortunately, because of the high humidity, the sweat will not evaporate so you have salts and dampness on your skin. That is super uncomfortable!

Can low humidity cause lung problems?

Dry air is going to irritate your airways, sore throat, and other illnesses. Your body tries to compensate for this dryness by overproducing mucus.

Excessive mucus is bad for breathing, especially for people who have COPD. Dry air can cause asthma flare-ups too.

Is humidity good for the lungs?

High humidity is not good for the lungs because it means that the air the lungs are getting has more water than oxygen.

This overworks the lungs. Low humidity is also not good for the lungs because the airways might become inflamed and fail to allow in enough air.

Is high humidity bad for COPD?

Yes, and so is low humidity. Dry and wet air can both cause a flare-up of COPD and make breathing really hard for the victim. The solution therefore is to maintain indoor humidity within the range of 30 to 50 percent.

Is it easier to breathe in cold or hot air?

Cold air is easier to breathe in because it holds less water vapor. Hot air has more water vapor so it is hard to inhale, and it contains less oxygen. This is why high humidity and shortness of breath are related.


High humidity and breathing problems go hand in hand, even for people who do not have COPD.

You should have a humidifier and a dehumidifier. The former increases indoor relative humidity to 50% and the former lowers it to 50%.

Is high humidity bad for the lungs? Yes, it is. Since your lungs just need oxygen to oxygenate the blood coming from the heart, if there is water in the air, they have to work harder to separate the two.

Low humidity is equally bad for the lungs because it inflames the airways, making breathing harder. The important thing is to find a balance, which means maintaining the right indoor humidity level of 30 to 50%.

Trusted sources