Dry air is hard on the respiratory system, often triggering coughs, sneezes, headaches and nosebleeds, and when you have a cold or the flu, warm humid air can loosen chest congestion and make breathing much easier. The soothing mist produced by steam vaporizers can provide relief from respiratory symptoms and make a good night's sleep possible.

Vaporizers add humidity to the air by heating water to the boiling point.

Pure Steam

A steam vaporizer consists of a reservoir that holds cool water and a heating element that heats the water to the boiling point, producing steam. The steam is allowed to rise and escape from the vaporizer, increasing the humidity and temperature of the surrounding air. The steam released by the vaporizer is pure, the minerals and other impurities in the water having been left behind in the reservoir. Vaporizers typically have no fans or humidity controls.


The steam produced by a vaporizer has a therapeutic effect for those suffering from respiratory illnesses because the humid air helps to relieve congestion and ease breathing. Medications can be added to the water in the vaporizer's reservoir, further increasing the medicative effects of the steam. Certain medications contain camphor, which acts as a cough suppressant, in a mixture of oils and alcohol.

Compared to Humidifier

A steam vaporizer works in the same way as a warm-mist humidifier. The principal difference between a humidifier and a vaporizer is that the vaporizer is generally smaller than a humidifier and is less able to increase the humidity in a large room. Unlike most humidifiers, vaporizers generally don't have controls for adjusting the level of humidity output by the unit. Some humidifiers are equipped with a medicine cup, allowing them to function as a therapeutic vaporizer.

Compared to Cool-Mist Vaporizer

Cool-mist vaporizers and humidifiers use either a wick filter that allows water to evaporate into the air or a rotating impeller that vaporizes water into a fine mist that is blown into the air by a fan. Both of these types of humidifiers add water to the air without first heating it and turning it into steam. These types of humidifiers are recommended over warm-mist vaporizers for use in children's rooms to avoid the risk of children being burned by hot steam.