Vaporizers work by heating water until it turns into hot steam. Humidifiers create a cool mist. Both add moisture to the air and are typically used to help ease colds.
Don't use a vaporizer around children, because the hot water could spill and the steam could burn your child if he gets too close. For safety, use a cool-mist humidifier instead.
Studies suggest cold-mist humidifiers may also be more effective at easing cold symptoms than steam-based vaporizers.
What is a humidifier good for?
Humidifiers (and vaporizers) are normally used to help alleviate colds. The moist air these devices create can loosen the mucus in your child's nose and may make it easier for him to breath. It may also help alleviate coughs and sore throats.
That said, humidifiers haven't been well studied. There's no definitive evidence that they actually work to ease colds. And studies of hot-steam vaporizers suggest those don't help with colds at all.
How to use a humidifier
- Place close to your child. Not so close that your child can reach it, but close enough that he will benefit from the moisture.
- Use filtered or distilled water. Regular tap water often contains minerals, which can build up in the humidifier and be dispersed into the air. They can also make it easier for bacteria to breed inside the humidifier.
- Keep it very clean. Germs thrive wherever there is water, so make sure you drain and clean the humidifier after each use. Otherwise the bacteria that accumulate can get vaporized into the air and end up in your child's lungs, where they can cause another infection.
- Dry it thoroughly. After cleaning, dry the humidifier to stop bacteria and mold from growing.
How to choose a humidifier for your child
- Select the right size. Measure your child's room and make sure the coverage area rating on the humidifier isn't too large. That will help prevent condensation from forming, which could lead to bacteria and mold.
- Look for an automatic shutoff feature. It's a good idea to get a humidifier that shuts off automatically once the water runs dry.