Vaporizer vs Humidifier: Which Is the Better Option for Croup?

You hear the barking cough of your child at 2 a.m. Neither you nor your child is getting any sleep, which is not going to go well for your early morning presentation at work.

You’ve tried over-the-counter cough medicine, but it’s just not working. The cough is actually getting worse.

It must be croup.

A friend tells you that you can help ease your child’s croup cough by putting a vaporizer or humidifier in their room. But which one should you choose?

Let’s take a look at a comparison of a vaporizer vs humidifier.

What Is Croup?

Before you can start to look at ways these devices can help croup, you should first understand what causes croup to begin with.

This is no normal cough. It’s usually caused by an infection, which is often viral. The viral version affects your child’s voicebox, causing the telltale sound of croup. It can start off innocently like a regular cold, and then progress with a mild fever.

There’s another version of croup called spasmodic that comes on more suddenly. The medical world is still deciding the cause of spasmodic croup, such as allergies or stomach reflux.

Regardless of the cause, the sound of a croup cough is alarming to any parent. It can also be accompanied by wheezing, making it seem even worse.

Some cases of croup may require medical intervention, especially if the condition doesn’t improve or the wheezing gets more intense. It can be treated with a steroid medication taken orally.

However, for milder cases, croup can also be eased with home remedies. That brings us back to asking what’s the difference between a vaporizer and a humidifier.

Both vaporizers and humidifiers will add moisture to the room’s air, which can help ease cough and cold symptoms. Having low humidity in your child’s room can also lead to nosebleeds and other issues.

Tip: adding an electric space heater to a room when it’s colder can increase the capacity for moisture in the air. However, if you add heat without a humidifier or vaporizer, it will make the air feel drier.

On the flipside, a cold blast of air from a freezer or the outside air has also been shown to temporarily ease symptoms.

The Steam Vaporizer

In general, vaporizers use heat to create continuous steam. However, even though there’s a heating process, the steam itself is usually not very hot when it leaves the machine.

The Pros

One big difference between a vaporizer vs humidifier is that with a vaporizer, you can add inhalants that produce soothing vapors (like menthol or eucalyptus). These inhalants can help provide more comfort to your child.

You can find vaporizers that have added features such as an auto shutoff when the water reservoir is low, as well as a nightlight which is especially helpful in a child’s room.

The water capacity of vaporizers can be quite high, up to 1.5 gallons or more. That means it can run for 24 hours or more without requiring a refill.

Because of the heat generated by a vaporizer, they are quite good at minimizing mold and mineral buildup. Also due to the heating process, the moisture itself coming from a vaporizer can be more hygienic than that of a humidifier.

The Cons

A vaporizer may become a burning hazard for kids and pets if it tips over, due to the heated water inside. Note that some vaporizers have safety features to regulate the water temperature.

You have to be sure to read any warnings on the labels of inhalants, as they often aren’t recommended for younger children and babies.

The Cool-Mist Humidifier

Many types of humidifiers don’t rely on heat to create steam (there are warm mist versions similar to vaporizers, but this will focus on the cool mist). Instead, cool mist units use vibrations to distribute a cool mist into the air.

The Pros

You don’t really have to worry about anyone getting burned by a cool-mist humidifier because there’s no heating involved. This is especially important when you’re putting a unit in your child’s room to soothe croup and other ailments.

Because the water doesn’t need to be heated before it’s shot into the air, you will probably save electricity compared to a vaporizer.

Many humidifiers can swivel back and forth during operation to better fill the room with mist.

You can also find humidifiers that have built-in lights.

Humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, but you can find units that will run continuously for 24 hours or more without refilling.

The Cons

Because cool mist units use a motor to disperse the water, they can be noisy as well. The cool mist can also make the room feel a bit colder.

As there’s no heating involved with a cool mist humidifier, you will have to be prepared for more maintenance. They need to be cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria buildup.

The water you put into a humidifier should also be distilled first to remove any impurities. This is not as much of an issue with a steam vaporizer.

Vaporizer vs Humidifier: Which Is Better for Croup?

There’s no clear winner between a vaporizer vs humidifier when it comes to battling croup, although some experts tend to lean towards cool mist due to safety concerns with hot vaporizers. However, choosing the best one for you might be a matter of which one is within your budget and gets the job done.

Cool, moist air from a cool mist humidifier can help reduce the swelling involved with croup. Instead of using a steam vaporizer, you can also try running a hot shower and letting your child breathe in the steam from it. This has been shown to relax vocal cords and reduce wheezing.

Regardless of which one you choose, you should take precautions if your child has asthma. Humidity in the room should be kept between 30 and 50 percent.

Adding a humidifier or vaporizer is one way to make life better at home. Another way to improve the air in your child’s room is by adding a HEPA air purifier, which you can read more about on our site.

Taking these steps can help prevent certain illnesses, or help them on their way quicker.

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