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Winter, vapour, and the connection between them

Winter, vapour, and the connection between them

Some people are adamantly in favour – others warn of possible dangers. There are those who advise specifically to use cold-mist – and at the opposite extreme, those who stress the need for hot-steam. What’s the true story? Here follows everything you need to know about vaporizers.

N. bat Menachem 22/11/2009 11:31
One of the most frequent questions asked of pediatricians in winter-time is whether it is advisable to make use of a vaporizer – and if so, which type is better, one which uses cold water or hot?

The answer to this question is not simple, as most questioners assume – there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer.

Therefore, we have brought here the responses of Dr. Hadar Yardeni, a regional doctor from the Leumit health fund in the northern region, who replied as follows:

Q: First of all, what exactly is a vaporizer, and what types are available?

A: A vaporizer is a machine that introduces water vapour and humidity into the atmosphere.

There are two types of vaporizers – a hot-steam vaporizer and a cold-mist vaporizer.

The hot-steam vaporizer boils water and then releases steam into the room. For this reason, it is not advisable to leave this machine running for more than six hours at a stretch.

One can add eucalyptus oil to this machine. This adds a fragrance to the room and there are those who believe that this oil is beneficial in cases of colds and upper-chest respiratory infections. The disadvantages: One has to beware of the danger of burns, since the machine uses water at boiling temperatures, and it is also not advisable to use this machine for children under the age of three months. The advantages: The machine is relatively cheap in comparison to a cold-mist vaporizer.

A cold-mist vaporizer functions without a heating element. When it is being used, no condensation forms on the walls of the room in which it is placed, and therefore it can be left running for twenty-four hours a day. The disadvantages: The machine is expensive in comparison to the hot-steam version – yet on the other hand, it consumes less electricity.
There are two models of cold-mist vaporizers on the market. The first is an ultrasound machine, which disperses water by using sound waves. The fine water spray which emerges from the machine is plain water – it has all the properties of regular water – and there are those who argue that unhealthy particles are dispersed together with the water mist.

The more basic model functions with a fan, which disperses the water through a filter. Only pure water is dispersed from this machine and nothing else. The rate of vaporization depends on the prevailing conditions of humidity. In a dry environment, the rate will be quicker, and in humid conditions, the rate will slow down. It is advisable to change the filter once every three months, and not to let water remain stagnant in the machine when it is not being used for extended periods.

A cold-mist vaporizer:

Cold-Mist Vaporizer צלם

Q: Why do we need vaporizers at all?

A: Vaporizers add humidity to the air. The effectiveness of their performance in this respect is identical, regardless of the type used. In addition, by the time the water vapour reaches your child’s nasal passages, it is at the same temperature regardless of whether it exited the vaporizer hot or cold. So how can we know if they are even necessary at all, and if they are, which one?

Those who recommend the use of vaporizers usually highlight research that indicates that children who sleep with a vaporizer running are 15% less likely to suffer from winter-related illnesses than those who sleep without such a machine in operation. In addition, they stress that a vaporizer prevents eye irritation, dry throat and skin, and improves respiration.

The addition of water vapour into the air also balances out excessive dryness that commonly results from usage of heating or cooling appliances, such as air conditioning units and radiators.

Those who favour usage of a cold-mist vaporizer assert that using this particular appliance prevents dehydration that can occur in the cold of winter (especially at night time), and that a combination of a vaporizer with a radiator in a room will prevent dehydration both in children and the elderly. Cold-mist vaporizers are able to function continually for up to four times longer than hot-steam varieties. They are primarily used in cases of allergy (which affect the respiratory system), to reduce congestion in the nasal passages and respiratory tract, and to deal with raspy breathing. They also reduce dryness in the eyes and throat and relieve respiratory difficulties.

And now for decision time…

Q: So, what is really preferable?

A: From a medical point of view, for children who suffer from congestion, a cold-mist vaporizer is best (just like using the cold air that emits from the freezer, or taking a ride in a car with open windows). A hot-steam vaporizer enables the nasal passages to be opened and facilitates discharge of mucus which was blocking the respiratory tract. This form of vaporizer is sterile and emits steam with no bacteria in it, and can also emit a larger amount of vapour, and is therefore more effective in this sense, and one can add various aromatic oils (when using a cold-mist vaporizer, one can place ampules of oil in the room, which will also have an effect). A hot-steam vaporizer warms up the room (and is therefore unsuitable for use in summer), and can therefore cause burns if it is used without sufficient caution. It will also cause condensation in the room and on occasion can promote the growth of mould on the walls.

From a financial point of view, the hot-steam vaporizer is cheaper to purchase, whereas the cold-mist vaporizer is significantly cheaper to run in terms of its consumption of electricity.

The hot-steam vaporizer:

Hot-Steam Vaporizer[צלם]

There are also many people, including doctors specialising in children’s respiratory illnesses, who argue that there is no need at all to use a vaporizer. According to them, one can adequately ensure sufficient moisture in the nose and mouth through use of a vaporizer, but the steam has no effect on the internal respiratory tract. One should bear in mind that a vaporizer is not a cure for coughs or colds – although it can enable a child who is suffering from a large amount of mucus discharge to eat and sleep.

In general, increasing the level of humidity during the winter by using a vaporizer is something healthy for everyone. And if one wishes to decide precisely which type is best, these experts advise purchasing the cold-mist model, with the caveat that one must be careful to keep it clean, change the water every day, and keep children well dressed so they do not suffer from the cold. And why do they not recommend a hot-steam vaporizer? Chiefly because the hot steam can be dangerous and cause burns, but also because it is not suitable for use in the summer.

Are you confused? Do you still not know what to do? The main thing is to choose a quiet model with a good Standards certificate or a guarantee of quality from the Israel Standards Authority. In addition, seek the advice of your pediatrician.
I cannot categorically recommend either of the types of vaporizers. My inclination is to favour the cold-mist model, mainly because it can be used all year round and is also safer, since it poses no danger of causing burns. But if you do choose to buy a cold-mist vaporizer, you should make sure to buy one with a large water capacity (enough to last over an entire Shabbos), which has a mechanism that shuts down the machine when the water runs out, and that doesn’t need the filters to be changed (which makes it cheaper and easier to use). For the child who suffers from allergies, buy a model that filters out dust.

And the most important of all; everyone should have a healthy and safe winter, warm indoors and cold and rainy only outdoors…

Information graciously provided by Dr. Hadar Yardeni, Regional Doctor in the Leumit Health Fund.