During cold and flu season, there's nothing more satisfying than a plume of steam rolling out of a humidifier. But the truth is that most national health agencies, institutions and family doctors recommend a cool-air humidifier as a safer, more effective solution for increasing air humidity in your home.

Why a Humidifier?

Humidifiers are fairly simple devices   hot, or steam, humidifiers heat water into steam that's released into the air to add humidity. Cool-mist humidifiers   also known as ultrasonic humidifiers or cool-air humidifiers   simply disperse small particles of cool or room-temperature water into the air to achieve the same effect as a steam humidifier.

Adding water to dry air helps us to breathe easier by replacing lost moisture. Even if you don't use a humidifier on a day-to-day basis, you may want to pull it out when you have a cold, as humid air is much more conducive to breaking up mucus and helping you cough up all that stuff lodged in your lungs. There is also an argument that keeping the air moist as the season starts to get dry will prevent you from getting a cold in the first place.

What Makes Cool-Air Humidifiers Better?

Cool-air humidifiers are simply much safer. Vapor humidifiers can be the cause of irritating burns or worse accidents. Put a vapor humidifier in a child's room and you may be asking for trouble. The cloudlike vapor is attractive to children, who may want to play with the humidifier when you're out of the room, and this could lead to serious problems.

Secondly, cool-air humidifiers tend to be gentler on your home. As steam builds up in corners or anywhere around the spot where you keep a steam humidifier, you run the risk of mold growth. Cool-air humidifiers disperse water over a wider area and contribute less to mold issues   but keep an eye on surfaces in the room where your humidifier is being used to make sure there is no dampness.

The National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, and many other sources, agree that a cool-mist humidifier is the best option. However, both are equally effective when it comes to loosening phlegm, notes the Mayo Clinic, which adds helpfully that a cool-mist humidifier often costs less than its heated counterpart.

Other Benefits of Cool-Air Humidifiers

Ever get a shock just from walking on your carpet? This phenomenon results from cold or dry weather and can be remedied by adding humidity to the air. A humidified home is also a welcome situation for all of your houseplants and can benefit your pets.

There are a number of cool-mist humidifiers to choose from. Some are plain and simple, and others feature additional filters or even decorative lighting for children's rooms. Remember to keep your humidifier clean by following the manufacturer's instructions and wipe it down every day   moist humid environments are where bacteria thrive, so it's important to keep a humidifier clean, whether it's a hot or cool version.

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