The other day we found out that our youngest had the croup. Pretty nasty sounding cough accompanies the croup, but luckily, it didn't seem that there was much damage. Mostly just dried out from the lack of humidity in the winter air. Our heat pump is badly in need of repair or else it might provide the needed humidity, but that's another story for another time.

So we're supposed to get a "humidifier". Hmm. Seems to be lots of choices. Warm mist, cool mist, humidifier, vaporizer. How to choose? How indeed. According to the helpful lady at Wal-Mart, we should get cool mist (ie, a humidifier). From what I can tell, in the beginning there were only vaporizers. But as time wore on, dainty little hands were burnt from the warm mist produced. You and I both know that warm things don't burn. That mist is downright hot. But I digress.

And so, with the advent of new technology, cool mist products were born. Now there are all sorts of selections and capacities. Auto-shut off, timed humidifying, you can probably even find a model that will brew coffee with that warm mist, too.

So after two nights of use, the cool mist clearance model we found at Target started smelling funny. Not bad funny, and not quite burning funny. It was more of that smoldering smell that electronics sometimes get funny. Which is to say that even if it doesn't cause a fire, it's likely to break soon. So back to Target I went.

But before buying another model, I pulled Google into the mix. Please be aware that if you should search on humidifiers vs. vaporizers, you'll get a lot of hits on products for keeping your contraband moist. If you make it past those, you'll find that generally speaking, there is little to no difference between the two products - except for that burning issue.

While I don't want to seem callous, it occurs to me that a child who happens to learn this lesson the hard way will not be likely to have to learn it again. And our children are generally intelligent enough to at least not burn themselves severely even when they do test our advice. If you have very small children, however, you may want to keep this in mind. Close to the unit, the mist is hot. Try it yourself if you need convincing.

So with all that in mind, here's my own opinion on the matter: Vaporizers are cheap. Ten bucks at Wal-Mart. Humidifiers aren't. Water that is boiled is unlikely to harbor any bacteria of any sort. Warm air to me seems to hold water better than cold air. Normally I find warmer air to be more soothing than cold air. There are no moving parts on most vaporizers, as they just have a little heating element to do the boiling.

You'll also not find a filter on the ten dollar model from Wal-Mart, for the aforementioned reason of not having any bacteria in the mist. And finally, because of the vaporizing action, you can add menthol or a similar additive to the warm mist to help even further. Guess which product we use now? And hey - someone else even agrees!

Comments (108)

I do agree... our first non-routine trip to the peditrician was with our then 3 month old baby girl who had apparantly "the common cold"... Dr. recommends a cool mist humidifier... we, being first-time parents, immediately go to Walmart & buy the best(aka most expensive) cool mist humidifier on the shelf. Fast forward 2 months... now 5 month old has bronchiolitis(very similiar symptoms as "common cold"} and same Dr. advises us to use a vaporizer... mom is very confused... wondering if there is a difference and if so what to use when, etc. etc. etc... Pharmacist at Walmart stutters a bit when mom asks her and finally replies with "Ummm... a vaporizer can be hot and a humider can be cool." Mom (still very confused) notices she isn't going to be shelling out the big bucks for a vaporizer like she did the humidifer... buys one and goes home to attempt to educate herself on these mysterious little machines. After some internet research and personal test runs of them both... we prefer the vaporizer... I agree that the warm air is more comforting and feel like the vaporizer will just have to be added to the list of things to childproof/teach her is no-no once our little chicky is self-mobile. End of story, the vaporizer is running, baby-girl is sleeping peacefully, and mom, satisfied with her investigation and decision, is sending dad to the storage building to put the humidifier in the consignment bin.

Well, between my mixed worlds of an Ice Technician with countless hours throught the week in the ice rink, common colds come and go... i usually adapt quickly and my body recovers fast from the common cold which comesfrequently when i get run down from long hours on season.... My mothers a RN so i called her on a night i was very sick and asked her opinion, she said vaporizer, but then again, "the child is always right" so i chose the opposite... the air just didnt seem right with the humidifier, which costed me around $50 and wasnt soothing to say none the least, and because i used it i couldnt return it... to make a long story short i put out $10 for a well known brand VICKS vaporizer, and i was all set after that, nothing felt better.... lesson.... "listen to Mom"

great, now I feel like a putz with a humidifier.

Vicks Vaporizer. Gotta have one!

Oh Lord, I just bought a Vicks vaporizer and I was going to return it for a humidifier. My kid gets a lot of nosebleeds. Thanks!

I could not decide between warm and cold mist and was even about to lose sleep over it! This was helpful. I guess tonight will tell, I am stuffed up and about to check out the warm mist.


Thank you! I'd rather spend $10 on something that works than $35 on something that doesn't. I just had to throw away our cool mist humidifier because I hadn't kept it clean last year, and after 8 months in the basement, it's too gross to even clean. I'm going to go get a vicks vaporizer to turn my sad, dried-out, nose bleeding wife back into the happy girl I married!

Thanks! Seems Doctor always says Humidifier. My 2 year old can't seem to get over nasal congestion for last 3 months(I've been using the humidifier). I'm on my way out the door with 10 bucks in hand!!

OK well I'm the odd man out. We're switching from warm vaporizer to cool mist because it makes my daughter's room TOO warm. She runs hot as it is, and when she's sick, she ends up just drenched in sweat from her stuffy little hot room. Incidentally, her room is the hottest in the entire house. If not for that, we would have stuck with the vaporizer. But if the heat is an issue, then the humidifier is a better bet.

I agree that warm mist is better than cool mist. I am a respiratory therapist and this is what I use for my 2 1/2 year old and my 41 year old.

I did try the cool mist route but like the warm mist better and you can use tap water in it instead of distilled.

True enough - I have found that tap water works just dandy. At least here in Charlotte, however, it's a must to include some salt (as instructed). If you don't, the steam doesn't work. I don't know the mechanics, but a few pinches of salt in with regular tap water and it works great!

This is the most divisive issue I have had w/ my boyfriend.
As long as (great caveat) keep it clean that's the rug. with me I think I would do be to clean but just throw it out when it gets to be icky.

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