What type of humidifier should I use? Cool-mist or warm?
As a Family Doctor, I am often asked the above question. First, it must be understood that any humidifier will put moisture back in the air.
During the winter months, many use heaters, leaving the home’s air dry. This can not only dry out plants, furniture but also our bodies. The end result is dehydration and dryer skin.
When I was in medical school, I simply placed a bowl of water in my room which acted as a poor-man’s humidifier. However, there are times when “real humidifiers” are also beneficial.
Humidifiers are traditionally used to help a person breathe better during an upper respiratory infection, asthma attack, cough or sinus infection. They are thought to help break up mucous during these infectious times.
Traditionally, there are two types of humidifiers. These include a warm-mist humidifier or a cool-mist humidifier, also known as an evaporative cooler.
The cool-mist humidifiers are broken consists of two types- ultrasonic humidifiers and evaporative coolers. Otherwise, aside from personal preference, there really is not a big scientific reason to use one versus the other.
Cool Mist humidifiers are recommended when the humidifier is being used by a child or in a child’s room. This is by far the safest option as it will prevent hot water and steam burns should the child get too close to the unit.
Further, these units are usually less expensive to operate since they do not use as much electricity. The ultrasonic humidifiers are nice and quiet as they use an ultrasonic mechanism to dispense moisture into the air.
Warm-Mist humidifiers have the advantage of heating the air before being inhaled. However, if placed more than a few feet from the user, there may not be much of a temperature difference upon inhaling as the moisture rapidly cools as it travels across the room.
Further, since the unit heats up the water, there are additional electricity costs associated with a warm-mist humidifier.
My recommendation is to try a cool-mist humidifier first. If this does not appear to meet your needs, you can consider a warm mist unit.
Dr. E. Madrid
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