Nebulizer Vs Humidifier Vs Vaporizer: A Detailed Comparison

Aerosol and steam inhalation therapies have for centuries been known to help with congestion and other respiratory conditions.

More recently, their benefits for slowing the impacts of aging on skin and hair and in improving general health and wellness are becoming similarly well known.

However, there is considerable confusion about the different types of equipment that convert liquids into minute particles that make for easier and safer inhalation.

Among the most common of these devices are nebulizers, humidifiers, and vaporizers, which many people mistake for one another. In fact, many may think these are all just different names for the same device, not even realizing they are three different device types.

In reality, the three devices have important differences that are important to how they operate and how and when they should or should not be used.

It is also helpful to point out that there are two-in-one devices such as the ProNebu Mesh Nebulizer-Humidifier.

Nevertheless, understanding the difference between nebulizer vs humidifier vs vaporizer is not particularly difficult, so it is worth the effort to make sure you pick the right equipment for your or your family’s specific needs.

You also better protect yourself from inadvertently misusing a device or attempting to use a device in a way that can do more harm than good.

What Is a Nebulizer?

Among the oldest devices used to relieve asthma symptoms, nebulizers dissolve liquids with the help of compressed air or ultrasonic vibration 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 the one that is right for you.

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, they are not without some downsides. 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 typically the most expensive among the three types of nebulizers, though ProNebu’s pricing is remarkably affordable.

Precautions When Using Nebulizers

You can enjoy the benefits of using a nebulizer and reduce potential risks by keeping 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 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 along with their medicine.

Follow your doctor’s prescription.

Although you can put fresh water into nebulizers to moisten the lung airways, nebulizers are generally used by individuals with medical conditions requiring doctor’s care.

In such cases, you need to only use the medicine your physician or your child’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, nebulizing medication is not different from any other prescription you would take orally. You only take the medicine you are prescribed and only in the manner prescribed.

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 arguably really just a sub-type of humidifier.

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 different safety considerations involved in how they can be safely 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.

This is one of the primary risk considerations that should be addressed prior to purchasing a vaporizer or warm mist humidifier if you have pets and children.

If you elect to use a vaporizer or warm mist humidifier in such instances, you should take extra care in its placement and setup to minimize the risk of spilling or other dangerous exposure to the steam.

On the other hand, 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 it will not necessarily increase the room temperature like a vaporizer may.

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? Since warm air holds more moisture than cool air, your humidifier can help distribute the heat produced by your heating system more effectively.

Precautions When Using Humidifiers and Vaporizers

In spite of numerous benefits of adding humidity, you should not use a vaporizer and humidifier under certain circumstances.

Do not use either a humidifier or vaporizer when indoor humidity is already high.

Increasing indoor moisture to over 60 percent 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 are using a humidifier for an extended period of time in a small, contained room or are in an area with already high humidity levels.

Do not use unclean vaporizers and humidifiers.

Like nebulizers, you can inadvertently be exposing yourself and others to dangerous germs or toxins if using a vaporizer or humidifier that is not properly cleaned or by using water with contaminants.

It’s also important to replace the filter and make sure you empty the tank and dry the device after every use.

Finally, it is best to use distilled water or, at least, purified water. Tap water is often fine to use assuming limited exposure but it is a good idea to verify the quality of your water source to make sure it is suitable for 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 will need to use a nebulizer mask or a mouthpiece for breathing in the mists when medicating.

Any or both of these accessories are often included in the package. If not, you would need to buy them separately.

With a nebulizer, you need to directly inhale the medicated mist to fully receive the intended therapy.

In contrast, you need not and generally should not 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.

A nebulizer generally is designed for use by only a single person at a time.

Further, nebulizer masks and mouthpieces should generally not be shared. If they need to be shared, they should be carefully cleaned and sanitized between uses.

One thing to note is 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 waste.

Alternatively, humidifiers disperse mist more broadly so that all those in a room can benefit from the increased humidity level.

3. Health Benefits

As you inhale the mists and the particles travel through your respiratory tract, providing various health benefits including opening up your airways, providing relief for various breathing issues.

Nebulizers are primarily used to help treat and provide relief from chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma and COPD, or temporary illnesses, such as branchitis, using medication.

Man adults and children suffering from these and other respiratory conditions see great results from nebulizer treatments.

Recall, that only medications prescribed by your physician should be used and you should carefully follow your physician’s guidance in treatment.

One note is that nebulizers are often particularly popular with asthmatics with difficulty using asthma inhalers, such as young children and seniors.

Meanwhile, all those who can benefit from use of a nebulizer can also benefit from the increased humidity levels produced by a humifier.

In addition, individuals with colds, cough, flu, throat irritation, acccute skin issues like eczema, and even those simply wanting healthier hair and skin can benefit from humidifiers.

Dry air is a contributing factor for a wide range of illness symptoms and undesirable health and beauty conditions.

Adding additional moisture to the air with a humidifier is an easy way to improve may of these situations.

Additionally, humidifiers can reduce certain allergies such as dust mite allergies by reducing the ability of particulates to remain airborne in the heavier, moist air.

4. Liquids Used

Fresh, clean water is the primary liquid that you will use in your humidifier. As discussed previously, distilled water is the ideal.

You can also find some warm and cool-mist humidifiers that allow you to add essential oils to help manage your symptoms better.

However, be aware that essential oils do tend to leave residue even in units that allow for their use. This can make your device oily, requiring you to clean your humidifier more thoroughly.

Medications should only be used in nebulizers. Humidifiers are not suited to use for distributing medications.

5. Mist Size

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

Generally, droplets should measure anywhere from 0.5 to 5.5 microns to ensure they successfully reach the lower respiratory tract airways.

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

If droplets are larger than five microns, they will only reach the upper respiratory tract.

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

This is why you can use some nebulizers as humidifiers, such as the ProNebu, but you cannot 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 making it small enough to fit into a purse, pocket, or glove compartment.

It atomizes liquid medicines and purified water into fine mists suitable for medication use. It also has two speeds to adjust to individual needs and preferences.

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

The ProNebu comes with both an adult and a child’s masks as well as one mouthpiece. For use as a humidifier, it can be used without either a mask or moutpiece.

It has easy, push-button use and can be operated using either two AA batteries or a micro USB cord (included).

ProNebu also includes a three-month guaranty.

Which One To Get?

To summarize, a nebulizer is generally used to deliver medicine to manage a respiratory conditions.

On the other hand, cool mist humidifiers and vaporizers are 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 wherever you go, get the ProNebu Mesh Portable Nebulizer.

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