Nebulizer Vs Humidifier Vs Vaporizer: A Detailed Comparison

Aerosol and steam inhalation therapies have long been used to help manage respiratory symptoms. Today, they are now also used for several skin conditions.

To convert liquids into minute particles for easier and safer inhalation, medical professionals and other users need a piece of equipment designed to do so.

Among the most popular are nebulizers, humidifiers, and vaporizers, which some people think are one and the same.

In truth, the three have slight differences, especially in how they fulfill their functions.

Although you can find two-in-one devices like the ProNebu Mesh Nebulizer-Humidifier, knowing the difference between nebulizer vs humidifier vs vaporizer is essential.

With this knowledge, you’ll be able to pick the right equipment for your, your child’s, or your whole family’s specific needs.

You also won’t be misusing any of them, which can do more harm than good.

What Is a Nebulizer?

Among the oldest devices used for the relief of asthma symptoms, nebulizers dissolve liquids with the help of compressed air, ultrasonic, or oxygen to turn them into mists.

Since there are three different ways nebulizers produce mists, there are also three types of nebulizers available: jet, ultrasonic, and mesh.

difference between nebulizer vs humidifier

Jet vs Ultrasonic vs Mesh Nebulizers

Each type of nebulizer has its own set of pros and cons. Let’s get to know them better so you can choose which one to get.

Jet Nebulizers

Jet nebulizers are available in four different sub-types. First is a nebulizer with a corrugated tube that delivers continuous aerosol.

Next is the jet nebulizer with a collection bag, which only generates aerosol during inhalation for improved drug delivery to the user’s lung airways.

The third sub-type is the breath-enhanced jet nebulizer, designed to release more aerosol than the last two.

The last sub-type is the BAN or breath-actuated jet nebulizer, which shortens the required treatment time and lessens medication wastage.

That said, jet nebulizers are the most cumbersome to use and pack because they come with several accessories, like tubing.

Another issue is that they are challenging to clean and less inefficient in managing symptoms.

Ultrasonic Nebulizers

This nebulizer has a piezoelectric crystal designed to vibrate at a high frequency, from one to three megahertz, to generate mists.

It is available in two sub-types. The small-volume variety is for liquid-based asthma drugs; the large-volume unit is for saline solutions.

The main issue with an ultrasonic nebulizer is the high amount of residue left when using it. Also, these nebulizers can’t aerosolize proteins, suspensions, or other viscous solutions.

Ultrasonic nebulizers also usually have heat-sensitive parts that can degrade in time. Nonetheless, they are more efficient and easier to use than jet nebulizers.

Mesh Nebulizers

As the latest type of nebulizer, mesh varieties use modern micropump technology to generate mists. They operate either by electricity or battery.

Since they produce the tiniest mists, you can expect shorter treatment times and little to no residues left afterward.

With some mesh nebulizer models, you can adjust the particle size for different medications.

The best part? They also operate quietly.

Of course, it isn’t free from flaws, either. One is that you can’t use liquids that crystallize since you will risk clogging the equipment’s pores.

Moreover, mesh nebulizers are more challenging to clean because of their size. They are also the most expensive among the three types of nebulizers.

Precautions When Using Nebulizers

You can only enjoy all the benefits of using a nebulizer if you keep these important reminders in mind:

Keep it dry and clean.

With the mist generated, you can expect liquid droplets to remain in some parts of your nebulizer. At times, there will also be leftover medicines.

Make sure you empty the medicine compartment and wash it, plus the tubing, mask, and mouthpiece, to prevent bacterial growth.

Then, dry them out completely before keeping them in a clean medicine bag or container.

A moist environment is the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.

Preventing mildew, mold, and bacteria buildup ensures that the user won’t breathe in any of these microorganisms together with the medicine.

Follow your doctor’s prescription.

Although you can put fresh water into nebulizers to moisten the lung airways, the soothing and relieving effects are only minimal and short-term.

Only use it as a temporary solution, such as when you run out of medicine or can’t be given immediate medical attention.

You must use the medicine your physician or your kid’s pediatrician prescribes.

Also, follow the doctor’s prescribed frequency of use because too much inhalation of nebulized medicines also has adverse effects.

After all, you are introducing a dose of medicine into your body.

What Are Humidifiers and Vaporizers?

The primary function of these two devices is to increase the indoor air humidity level. In fact, a vaporizer is one of the two main types of humidifiers.

The primary differences between humidifier vs vaporizer are in how they convert liquids into smaller molecules.

They also differ in the size of particles they produce and the level of safety when used.

Humidifier vs Vaporizer

Also known as a warm mist humidifier, a vaporizer boils the liquid to create warm water vapor, so it can also increase the room’s temperature.

With the hot steam and liquid produced, there is a risk of burns when accidentally knocked over or in direct contact with the steam.

That’s why we highly discourage you from purchasing and using a warm mist humidifier or vaporizer if you have pets and children.

On the contrary, a humidifier, or a cool mist humidifier to be precise, is a safer option than vaporizers because it produces a cool mist.

It does so through evaporation with the help of a fan or ultrasonic vibration.

This means that compared to the vaporizer, it won’t be able to increase the room temperature.

Even so, it can also add warmth indirectly, especially when you are using your heating systems at the same time, such as during winter.

How so? It’s simple. Since warm air holds more moisture than cool air, your humidifier can help distribute the heat produced by your heating system.

Precautions When Using Humidifiers and Vaporizers

Apparently, you can’t use your vaporizer and humidifier in certain situations, including:

Don’t use both when indoor humidity is already high or at its maximum.

Increasing indoor moisture to 60 percent or higher can worsen your symptoms and lead to mold and mildew growth.

If you have humidifiers with a humidistat, you can easily monitor your indoor environment’s moisture level.

However, you should purchase a humidity meter or hygrometer if you have portable or regular humidifiers.

Do not use unclean vaporizers and humidifiers.

Like nebulizers, you are exposing your home and everyone who lives in it to germs when you don’t clean your vaporizer or humidifier.

It’s also important to replace the filter as well as ensure you empty the tank and dry the device after every use.

nebulizer vs humidifier vs vaporizer

Nebulizer Vs Humidifier: How Do They Differ?

Nebulizers and cool mist humidifiers both produce cool mists. So, how is a nebulizer different from a cool-mist humidifier?

Here are some of the key differences between nebulizer vs humidifier:

1. How To Use

No matter what type of nebulizer you have, you need to use a nebulizer mask or a mouthpiece for breathing in the mists.

Any or both of these accessories are often included in the package. Else, you would need to buy them separately.

With a nebulizer, you need to inhale the mist to enjoy its benefits, which we’ll discuss below.

In contrast, you shouldn’t inhale the mist or steam directly from the humidifier or put your face over the device.

All you have to do is place your humidifier on top of a table or the floor and let it do its job.

2. The Number of People Who Can Use It at the Same Time

The most obvious difference between nebulizers and humidifiers is the number of individuals who will benefit from the machine while it’s running.

Since it requires a mask or a mouthpiece, only a single person can use a nebulizer at a time.

Plus, every member of the family who needs to use the machine should have their own mask or mouthpiece.

Take note that the size of the nebulizer mask for children differs from adults.

Using the wrong size prevents maximum delivery of the medicine to the lungs and increases medicine wastage.

On the contrary, humidifiers will disperse the mists at a certain distance, so almost everyone in the room will enjoy their benefits.

3. Health Benefits

As you inhale the mists and the particles travel through your respiratory tract, they open up your lung airways and relieve your breathing difficulties.

Nebulizers are used for the rapid relief of asthma symptoms. You can also use them for long-term asthma control, depending on the prescription liquid asthma medications you use.

Additionally, both an adult & kids suffering from other respiratory conditions, such as COPD and bronchitis, will benefit from nebulizer treatments.

All you have to do is use the right medication prescribed by your physician.

Lastly, since they are more convenient to use, asthmatics with difficulty using asthma inhalers, such as young children and seniors, will greatly benefit from nebulizers.

Meanwhile, individuals with asthma, colds, acute cough, flu, throat irritation, and skin issues like eczema can benefit from humidifiers.

Generally, dry air is one of the triggering factors of these illnesses.

With the added indoor air moisture, there would be little to no flare-ups and even mild to moderate relief of symptoms.

When used correctly, humidifiers can prevent a dust mite allergy because dust mites will add more weight to the moist air, making it difficult for them to travel.

4. The Liquids You Can Use

Fresh water is the primary liquid that you must put in your humidifier.

You can also find a warm or cool-mist humidifier that allows you to add essential oils to help manage your symptoms better.

Some units also allow you to add a few drops of essential oil directly into the compartment, which has already been filled with water.

However, expect that this mixture can leave residue and make your device oily, requiring you to clean your humidifier more thoroughly.

On the contrary, you can only put prescribed medications and water in your nebulizers.

5. Mist Size

The next significant difference between nebulizers and cool mist humidifiers that isn’t too obvious is the size of the mists they generate.

Generally, a single particle should measure anywhere from 0.5 to 5.5 microns to ensure successful deposition in the lower respiratory tract or airways.

Nebulizers generate mists that measure one to five microns, depending on the specific type of nebulizer you have.

If it’s anything bigger than five microns, it can only reach the upper respiratory tract.

On the other hand, a nanomist humidifier is able to generate mist with a diameter smaller than 100 nanometers or 0.1 microns.

This is why you can use some nebulizers as humidifiers, such as the ProNebu, but you can’t use humidifiers as nebulizers.

An Overview of the ProNebu Mesh Portable Nebulizer


The ProNebu Mesh is a tubing-free, whisper-quiet device measuring 4 x 1 x 1.5 inches. It atomizes liquid medicines and purified water into five-micron mists.

As a humidifier, you can use it in your bedroom, office, cubicle, bathroom, small living or dining room, and even your car.

As a nebulizer, you can share it with your child or any kid in your family because the package comes with both adult and kid masks.

Apart from that, the package includes one mouthpiece.

Although this handheld device is easy to use, a useful instruction manual comes with your purchase.

Plus, if you have issues with the ProNebu, you can have it replaced or repaired within three months of purchasing it.

Which One To Get?

To summarize, a nebulizer is a medical device used to manage respiratory conditions.

On the other hand, cool mist humidifiers and vaporizers are appliances designed to help improve indoor air quality to prevent and manage several health issues and symptoms.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of both a nebulizer and a cool mist humidifier without buying two different machines, get the ProNebu Mesh Portable Nebulizer.

You will make the most out of it, especially if you or a family member has an underlying respiratory health issue.

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