Humidifiers and vaporizers both add moisture to dry air.

Is a Vaporizer or Humidifier Better for Kids in the Winter Months?

by Jonae Fredericks

During the winter months, indoor air tends to become dry when you turn up the heat. All too often, the result is dry skin and nosebleeds. For a little one with a cold, the dry air can intensify his symptoms. Vaporizers and humidifiers both moisten the air, loosening mucus and making your child a whole lot more comfortable. If you are unsure whether to use a vaporizer or a humidifier, safety is a vital part of deciding which is better for your kids.

1. What’s the Difference?

Vaporizer units bring room-temperature water to a boil, then release hot mist into the air. Cool-mist vaporizers have no heating element because they rely on a spinning mechanism to release water droplets into the air. Much like cool-mist vaporizers, humidifiers do not contain heating elements either. Instead, humidifiers have a wick that absorbs water. When you power up the humidifier, a fan kicks on, which blows air through the wet wick, releasing the cool mist into the air.

2. Cost

Writing for MayoClinic.com, Dr. Jay Hoecker, emeritus member of the department of pediatric and adolescent medicine, states that by the time the moisture from a humidifier or vaporizer enters the lower part of your child’s respiratory system, the temperature is the same whether it started out warm or cold. What this means is that ultimately, a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier is just as beneficial to your child as warm mist. Warm-mist units contain a heating element that increases the price of the units, which is why the most cost-effective option is a basic cool-mist humidifier.

3. American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations

The AAP suggests adding a cooling mist to a child's bedroom air during the winter months. Whether the cool mist comes from a vaporizer or a humidifier makes no difference and is purely a matter of personal choice. The AAP bases this opinion on the burn risk. Stating that there is always a chance that a child may get to close to a steam or warm-mist vaporizer or humidifier, risking burns.

4. Cleaning

Because cool-mist vaporizers and humidifiers do not heat the water before releasing it into the air, this creates the perfect breeding ground for mold. Dr. Hoecker recommends wiping the unit down each day to discourage mold. A solution of nine parts water to one part bleach is effective. Simply add the solution to a spray bottle and dampen a clean cloth. Wipe down the unit with the bleach solution and allow it to air dry.

5. An Alternative

If you do not have a vaporizer or humidifier, there is an alternative. Fill a shallow pan half-full with water and place it in your child’s room, where it will eventually evaporate. The University of Michigan Health System reminds parents to keep the pan of water out of their child’s reach. It should never rest on the floor where it may become a tripping hazard. Also, children can drown in small amounts of water, so be sure to keep the pan up high.

About the Author

Jonae Fredericks started writing in 2007. She also has a background as a licensed cosmetologist and certified skin-care specialist. Jonae Fredericks is a certified paraeducator, presently working in the public education system.

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