Cold air is drier than warm and even though we come with our own bodily humidifiers, our noses, lots of people find it harder to breathe during the winter months, especially our children. Factor in sniffles, coughs, and sneezes picked up in day care or at school, and winter nights can quickly turn sleepless for children, and their parents.

I remember as a child, my parents would pull out the old “vaporizer,” not to be confused with the latest trend in smokeless e-cigarettes, smother my chest in Vicks Vapo-Rub, and set up the warm steam humidifier as close to the head of my bed as they could. It was the 60s and we still didn’t use seat belts, much less consider the damage that boiling hot vaporizer steam could do to a curious child who got too close for comfort. Luckily, this ritual only occurred when I was too ill to get out of bed, let alone explore the inner workings of the vaporizer.

Today, we can provide the 1-2 punch of air purification and cool steam moisture by using both a cool-mist humidifier and an air purifier in our children’s rooms in the winter-time. Small children especially can be susceptible to nose bleeds and scratchy throats, not to mention dry skin, due to the drier air. The cool air humidifier is especially helpful for children who are battling a cold or sinus infection.

The Mayo Clinic advises cool-mist humidifiers to “ease the airways” of children battling colds for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the reduced cost of cool-mist versus warm-mist devices. Since the air has reached room temperature by the time it’s inhaled, Mayo suggests the more cost-effective cool-mist variety, which is also infinitely safer for young children than heated steam.

NPR reported a few years ago on a Pediatrics paper citing the increase in molds and airborne pathogens due to humidifier use, so there is not uniform consensus on humidifiers, but the paper’s author cited her main concern was that most parents don’t clean their units effectively enough. If you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning the unit thoroughly, and add an air purifier to the room as well, you’re providing the best of both worlds, moist and cleaner air, for your ailing child.