What Does A Humidifier Do For Babies? How They Can Help Your Child

What do humidifiers do for babies featured image

Ever wonder what “humidity” is all about? Do you have children? It’s definitely no fun having a little one who’s sick and suffering.

The great news is that a humidifier may be able to help your baby. But what exactly does a humidifier do for babies? Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that buying a good humidifier was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

During times of dry air (like during cold months), it dramatically improved my comfort level and helped me overcome my colds & sickness.

Read on to learn more about how much of a difference they can make for your little one.


Infographic – What does a humidifier do for babies?

What does a humidifier do for babies infographic image

Understanding humidity and how it affects babies

Relative humidity comfort scale image diagram

Every wondered what humidity is all about? In this image of a relative humidity scale, you can see the general range comfortable for people and babies. It’s just a way of expressing how much moisture is present in the air at a given temperature compared to air that is dry. If the moisture in the air is too high babies become hot and can’t cool off normally. If the humidity is very low (too little moisture), coughing, noise & breathing problems and difficulty sleeping are common.

Humidity (often expressed as a percentage and called relative humidity) is a way of describing how much moisture is in the air around you.

Generally speaking people, including babies, are most comfortable in the middle 40-60% range. Like many other things, though, it varies exactly from person to person.

However, the great thing is that once you understand the effects of too much (and especially too little) humidity it all makes sense.

The effects of high humidity

In some climates like those in areas near coastal regions, or foreign countries with a humid climate, the air feels exceptionally “hot” even though it’s not.

The reason is that high humidity prevents the body from being able to cool properly. For babies this means very they’ll have a very difficult time sleeping, will sweat much more, and generally will be irritable and uncomfortable.

A humidifier doesn’t help with high humidity conditions. For that, you’ll need a product that removes humidity from the air around you, which is what a dehumidifier does.

Optionally, you can use your indoor air conditioning as it has a similar effect – the cold air causes moisture to condense and will help relieve high humidity in your child’s room.

That’s especially helpful after a very hard rain when the wet ground begins evaporating and makes indoor conditions uncomfortable for some time.

How low humidity affects babies

Image of a baby coughing. Humidifier vs air purifier for baby

The average cold and other sicknesses are especially hard on babies. When the humidity in your home is low, it’s even more difficult for them! To relieve this, you’ll need to raise the moisture level in your child’s room. That’s where humidifiers come in. Keep your baby comfortable by being sure the moisture is at a healthy level so they’ll feel their best.

Low humidity has several effects on babies that cause a variety of types of discomfort.

One of the most important reasons for this is not only does excessively low moisture air dry out the nose & throat in children, but babies are more susceptible to sickness and respiratory problems than adults.

Some of the most common symptoms of dry air that babies suffer from are:

  • Dry skin
  • Drying and stuffy nose & sinuses
  • Rashes can become worse
  • Increased susceptibility to sickness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sensitivity to the dry air: coughing and symptoms that resemble allergies
  • Nosebleeds
  • Static electricity increasing and static cling
  • Recovery from sickness takes longer
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty sleeping due to discomfort

At normal humidity levels (between 40 to 60% or so) the human body produces mucous in the linings of the throat, nose, and sinuses. When the moisture is excessively low these membranes in your child’s body dry out, introducing pain and making them more susceptible to sickness.

Indoor heating systems are a major contributing factor – especially if you use a wood stove. Even electric or gas heating systems in your home cause the humidity in a home to drop to very low levels when in use.

I’ve seen humidity levels fall to well below 25%…or more! That’s a very uncomfortable level, and every time I could definitely feel the side effects.

How does a humidifier help?

Humidifiers relieve the problems listed above by increasing the moisture (humidity) level where your baby is.

By doing so, they reduce the number of symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and dry skin your baby may be suffering from. During seasonal conditions (or due to other factors) when the humidity drops, they can prevent sickness and reduce germs in the air.

Low humidity levels allow germs and microbes to travel more easily throughout the air. Additionally, when internal mucous membranes dry out during those conditions the body is more susceptible to sickness.

All in all, humidifiers bring the moisture level in a room back to a healthy, comfortable level and improve your baby’s quality of life.

What humidity level is good for my baby?

The humidity level in your baby’s room doesn’t have to be perfect. Ideally, you’ll just need to use a humidifier to keep it in the general range I recommend here. I highly recommend purchasing a good temperature gauge with humidity display as it will help tremendously and take the guesswork out of maintaining your child’s air quality.

Ideally, just like with adults, the general range of 40-60% humidity is ideal. This is the best range in which most children and adults feel good, have better health, and can recover from sickness more quickly.

Keep the level at 30% minimal to avoid the effects I listed above for your child.

However, just as a convenient rule of thumb, aim for 50% humidity. This makes sure it’s a great midpoint not just for your children but for anyone else living in your home.

When the humidity level begins to approach 60% the room starts to feel uncomfortable and too warm and your child may become irritable and have difficulty sleeping. It’s very similar to what you feel after running a hot shower for a long time – the adjacent room feel a bit hot and “muggy.”

Either way, as long as you maintain 40% and above your baby should be comfortable and will feel fewer consequences of dry air.

If you’re using the heat quite often or live in a dry climate, you’ll need a humidifier that can produce enough water vapor for the room it’s in. I don’t recommend the smallest models for this reason. You’ll minimally need a model with a “high” setting in that case. Otherwise, it won’t be able to supply enough moisture to maintain a good humidity level. (See my recommendations at the bottom of this post)

How to check the humidity in your child’s room

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gauge

A good quality, inexpensive temperature and humidity gauge is a fantastic and extremely simple way to keep track of the comfort level where your baby stays. The problem with guessing is that it’s often hard for us to judge as our body’s sensitivity to temperature and moisture can change at times. This takes the guess-work out. I use one regularly myself year-round.

In my opinion, the best, easiest, and least expensive way to check the humidity level for your child is to use a simple and cheap digital temperature and humidity gauge.

The biggest problem I’ve run into at times was often, depending on the current state of my body, I would incorrectly guess the temperature or other air quality conditions at home.

This takes the guess-work out of it – and lets me know exactly what kind of comfort level I have at any given time. It’s also great for the summertime when I arrive home and I can right away if I need to run the air conditioning for a while.

Just put one in your baby’s room and check it periodically. When running a humidifier, you’ll be able to see the humidity level rise in real-time and you can set it to low if the humidity isn’t be dropped constantly by outside factors.

How do humidifiers work?

Vicks V745A humidifier image

Commonly sold humidifiers like this Vicks warm mist model work by taking water, stored in a container, and changing it into water vapor. The vapor is a super-fine mist or steam released into the room’s air which in turn raises the humidity level. Although evaporative models don’t need electricity, products like this one can offer almost immediate relief and have more features. Expect to spend about $35 and above for a good model.

So what exactly is a humidifier?

A humidifier is a device that changes liquid water into a fine mist or steam and releases it into the air to raise the humidity level. As the humidifier operates it simply adds to the moisture in the room and therefore improves your baby’s comfort level.

Types of humidifiers

There 4 basic types of humidifiers, although I’ll cover the most practical and popular ones in this post:

  1. Warm mist
  2. Cool mist
  3. Electromechanical
  4. Evaporative


Example of evaporative humidifier

These are simply products that work by being filled with water which evaporates slowly in the room. They’re silent and need no power to work, but as you might have guessed they’re very slow.

I don’t recommend these for your baby as they also can’t produce fast relief or high moisture output. The advantages of the others listed below are so much better that it doesn’t really make sense to buy these for your child.


Impeller humidifier example imageElectromechanical humidifiers like this Vicks 400R cool mist model are based on older technology used years ago. They work similarly to others in that they produce water vapor. However, they do so by using an electric motor with an attachment to physically disturb the water and produce fine droplets. They’re also limited in their features.

Electromechanical humidifiers are what were some of the main products available many years ago but they’ve become a bit outdated. However, they’re still an option if the price is right. Not my first recommendation, but they do contribute “cool mist” (unheated) water vapor into a room fairly well.

The most significant drawback is their lack of features. Whereas today you can find electrical models with various power levels, timers, and other convenient features, electromechanical models don’t normally have those options.

For that reason, they’re mainly a lower-tier product choice.

Warm mist & cool mist

Vicks V745A humidifier image

Pure MistAire ultrasonic cool mist humidifier

Warm and cool mist humidifiers are essentially the most popular types sold today and offer fast relief in your child’s room. Some examples are a warm mist humidifier (left): that I own myself and a cool mist humidifier (right): the Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic humidifier.

Warm and cool mist humidifiers work similarly but use different methods to raise the humidity in your home.

Warm mist: uses a heating element or similar device, powered by electricity, to turn water into warm steam or vapor

Cool mist: often uses an ultrasonic device to rapidly change liquid water into a vapor, and doesn’t heat the water

Both types are effective at improving your baby’s health and comfort.

The main difference is that the warm mist type of product (which I own, and very much enjoy!) has the advantage of helping reduce cold symptoms and easing sinus & other nose-related or throat problems.

While cool mist humidifiers still improve your humidity levels at home, they do have the disadvantage in that they’re not as comforting for your child’s sickness as a warm mist model is.

On the other hand, ultrasonic models can offer near-silent operation which the warm mist models cannot. That’s something to think about when shopping.

Note that warm mist models require you to clean the water tank periodically to avoid germ, contaminant, and mold build-up during use.

Summary – What does a humidifier do for babies?

To recap here are the fundamental things to know:

  • Humidifiers help babies by improving their air quality – they relieve the effects of dry air and can also help reduce and relieve sickness along with improving their sleep comfort
  • Warm mist and cool mist are the most common types sold today
  • Warm mist humidifiers additionally are helpful for relieving sinus & other cold symptoms your child may have

If you’re wondering what the differences are between an air purifier and a humidifier for your baby, check out my helpful post here.

Looking for a good recommendation for a humidifier? I own and can personally recommend the Vicks V745R warm mist model which features 2 power settings, isn’t expensive, and is very easy to use. It even shuts off by itself when the water is all gone!

Wondering How Close Should A Humidifier Be To Your Bed? Your Questions Answered

How close should a humidifier be to your bed featured image

Humidifiers are great and can really make a big difference for both your comfort and health. However, it’s a bit confusing sometimes when trying to figure out how to use them.

What’s even more annoying is how little information there is out there to help. Can you potentially get bad results or even feel worse if it’s too close to your bed? And what about sleeping – how will it affect that?

If you’re wondering how close you should put a humidifier to your bed, I’ve got some great info that’ll help.


Where should you place a humidifier?

As it turns out, there isn’t a perfect place to put your humidifier. I can, however, give you some general guidelines that will work for nearly everyone.

Humidifier placement tips
  • Bed: We recommend placing your humidifier several feet from your bed – a minimum of 3 feet or so is good (Sick with a cold? See the exception below)
  • Although you can use them on a floor, placing them at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal
  • Don’t place a humidifier where it will be constantly exposed to sunlight (Ex.: near a window)
  • Avoid placing the unit on top of or very close to wooden surfaces subject to moisture or water damage. A tray or other water-resistant cover underneath the unit can avoid issues from mist droplets or spilled water
  • A non-metallic, level surface is ideal. Do not place on carpet or similar surfaces
  • For best results, place humidifiers closer to the center of the room or even to one side, where ever convenient

We don’t recommend placing a humidifier too close to your bed or other occupied areas but not for the reasons you might think. In fact, during cold and sinus congestion times they can actually be very helpful next to your bed!

I’ll explain more as we go.

A simple humidifier placement diagram

Humidifier bedroom placement diagram

Ideally, I recommend keeping your humidifier several feet from your bed on a good, flat surface above the floor that’s not harmed by water droplets or spills. Additionally, if you’re suffering from severe congestion you might find it helpful to keep it near the bed temporarily.

As I mentioned earlier, a good rule of thumb is to keep a humidifier several feet from your bed and other large pieces of furniture under normal conditions.

If you’re suffering from severe congestion, sinus problems, or other similar cold or flu symptoms keeping a warm mist humidifier near the bed is helpful sometimes.

That’s because warm mist products create a warm air mist in the form of steam which has a relieving effect similar to a hot, steamy shower. Heavily moist, warm air helps to open nasal and sinus passageways.

When you’re sick having one located next to your bed is not only accepting but also you can, at your choice, directly inhale the gentle warm mist for relief.

During sleep time

When trying to sleep, it’s sometimes again best to have a humidifier located far away from your bed. While they normally won’t harm anything if too close, it’s better to have them located where moisture can be distributed well and you won’t be around it too much. Additionally, some make sounds while operating that could wake light sleepers.

If you’re a heavy sleeper you’re not likely to have the problems waking up when sounds occur as I do. However, you should know that some humidifiers create some interesting sounds occasionally during operation.

For example, when opening the water tank’s valve to retrieve more water, my Vicks model makes a “gurgling” sound. Other models may have a slight bubbling or very low-volume sound from the air moving.

In general, most quality humidifiers are very quiet and aren’t very likely to disturb you during sleep if placed farther away.

Not only that but as a general rule, I don’t recommend having a strong source of moisture very close to you when sleeping as it’s potentially bothersome to your nose & throat.

Additionally, as our body temperatures fluctuate during sleep, you could become uncomfortable during your rest time as well.

Avoiding sunlight + cleaning notes

Image of a woman cleaning a humidifier water tank

As I mentioned earlier, don’t place humidifiers in direct sitting sunlight like near a window. It will encourage the growth of bacteria and even algae which will speed up how quickly the water tank spoils.

Maintenance is always required. Periodically (often 1 time week or once every 2 weeks) clean the tank thoroughly with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Use a soft cloth to clean the inside of the tank as you go.

Don’t use detergent.

I get great results using distilled water in mine as it helps keep buildup to the least amount of work possible.

Should a humidifier be on the floor or a table?

Diagram showing examples of humidifiers on table and floor

You can use humidifiers on either a sturdy table or the floor, although at least about 2 feet from the floor is recommended. Humidity will still distribute evenly throughout a room over time. Product manufacturers and I both recommend you don’t use a humidifier alone without something to protect the surface from spills or water droplets.

Placing one at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal. In this case, use a sturdy table that isn’t in danger of tipping with a full and heavy water tank. You also don’t want anyone accidentally tipping one over so be careful where you place it to avoid accidents.

Ideally, however, you’ll want to use them with some type of tray or protective material placed underneath as you’ll find that it’s very easy to accidentally spill water when replacing the tank.

In my experience, it’s a common problem although it depends on the design of your particular product.

Not everyone has a waterproof table to use so find an item that’s water-resistant. Pick one that’s large enough to cover the area around the base by about 1/2 – 1 foot in size as a rule.

You can, in fact, use a humidifier on either the floor or a table if you must. They’ll still work well, just not as fast and efficiently.

However, in that case, never place them on the carpet it will trap water and potentially lead to more problems.

How humidifiers work – Moisture, air, and your home

Illustrated diagram of a humidifier and how it worksIllustrated diagram of a common humidifier. Although the particular details vary from model to model, all have the same basic job: liquid water, stored in a tank, is changed into a very fine mist that rises in the air. This, in effect, increases the humidity level safely and comfortably.

Simply put, a humidifier works to convert liquid water into a fine mist which is released into a room to increase the humidity.

While not all need electricity to do so, the most common (and often the most effective ones) use power from a standard electrical outlet to run.

The power electronics work to use electrical power to drive a vaporizer element. A vaporizer is most often one of a few types:

  • Thermal (heating element) vaporize
  • Ultrasonic
  • Electro-mechanical

Of these, thermal (warm mist) and ultrasonic (cool mist) types are now the most commonly sold. Both have pros and cons I’ll share further below.

The vaporizer changes the liquid form of water into a fine mist that rises through an exit passageway and out a nozzle into the room’s air. This adds moisture (humidity) to the room’s air and improves comfort, health, and relief from low-humidity conditions.

Basic operation

Crane humidifier filling tank example image

Shown: Filling a cool mist humidifier’s water tank in my home during testing. Nearly all (except, for example, evaporative models) work the same: remove the tank when it runs dry and fill it with clean water. Note that mineral-heavy water is not recommended!

The great news is that humidifiers are one of the easiest appliances to use! It basically boils down to a few simple steps you’ll do during operation:

  1. Place on a suitable surface and place as recommended
  2. Remove the tank and remove the tank’s cap
  3. Fill with clean water of the recommended type (distilled is ideal)
  4. Replace the cap and tighten securely
  5. Place the water tank carefully on the humidifier base, taking care to avoid spills
  6. Switch on the humidifier and adjust as desired

Ultimately, you’ll only need to refill a water tank periodically as it takes several hours for a tank to run out in most cases. Some typical time windows are about 9 hours to 24 hours between running out.

The amount of time it takes depends on both the output setting of the humidifier and the tank size of the model you buy.

For that reason, it’s isn’t always best to buy the cheapest! If you’re like me and don’t like the hassle of having to keep up with something, spending a few more dollars for a model with a larger tank is well worth it!

This is especially true for using them overnight during the winter or all day in dry climates.

How to know when you need a humidifier (and how to check)

Recommended humidity level imageSome of the most common questions I get are, “What humidity level is best?” as well as “How can I tell the humidity level in my home or room?”

Great questions!

Humidity measured as a percentage on a scale of 0-100%, and relative to the air’s temperature. Hence the name you’ll often hear: “relative humidity.”

Generally speaking, the human body feels best with relative humidity above 30% and 60% and below.

However, an ideal range for humidity in your home is 40-50%. Your goal isn’t to have it perfectly at some fixed number – that’s not realistic or necessary.

The ideal amount of humidity is the level that you feel most comfortable at and resolve healthy and dry air symptoms for you, your child, or your home and family. A great rule of thumb is to aim for about 50%.

When the level begins to reach 30% and below it’s time to use your humidifier.

Severe dry air conditions begin to become obvious at about 30% and below. In dry climates and during winter the level can drop to under 20%!

You might not realize it, but even allergy symptoms are less bothersome if the air is kept to a healthy moisture level as I mentioned above. That’s because dry air allows allergens to become more of a problem as well as move about more freely.

How to check humidity levels

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gaugeChecking humidity is actually very simple if you’ve got the right instrument. Fortunately, these days you can check both the temperature and relative humidity at a glance with a cheap meter like this fantastic little ThermaPro digital humidity gauge.

Unfortunately guessing is a terrible way to try to figure out the condition of the air around you. To make matters worse, our bodies are subject to fluctuate in how they sense temperature and other conditions.

While there are a few old-fashioned methods including using mechanical devices, in modern times it’s best to use a digital humidity gauge to check.

As humidity is related to temperature it’s better to be able to see both of them anytime you need to. That’s another reason these modern (and affordable – most are under $15) instruments are wonderful to have around.

I own several both at work and at home. You’ll be able to see the relationship between the rise and fall of temperature and humidity accurately at any time of the day or night.

Humidifier types

Image with examples of the 3 main types of humidifiers

While they’re often a bit similar in how they look from the outside, there are some important differences to know.

Here are 3 of the main types of humidifiers for home and personal use:

  • Warm mist
  • Cool mist
  • Evaporative

Warm mist and cool are fairly similar but have some distinct differences. Evaporative models are less common but have some advantages (and disadvantages) the other 2 don’t have.

Humidifier type differences

1. Warm mist models produce water vapor by using electrical power to generate heat and create a gentle, low-temperature vapor that’s a form of steam. They’re ideal for colds, congestion, and wintertime.

The drawback is that they add heat to a room as the water mist released warms before it escapes the device. Additionally, they don’t have a dial control like cool mist models and often have 1 or more fixed output levels instead.

2. Cool mist models typically use low-power methods such as an ultrasonic device to produce a super-fine mist at room temperature. They’re great for saving energy as well as particularly well-suited to dry climate use.

They also feature near-silent operation and many models allow for finer output level controls

3. Evaporative humidifiers work just as you might guess: water evaporates (aided by a fan) with a special design intended to raise the humidity in a room. One distinct feature is evaporative humidifiers cannot raise a room’s humidity level too high (above 60%).

It’s impossible as they only release moisture that naturally fills the void left due to low moisture thanks to the laws of physics.

Guidelines for baby’s room

Image of a mother and baby in crib with humidifier

The great news is that the same guidelines apply for your child’s room, too. One of the best types to use, by the way, are those like a child’s cool mist model that’s highly adjustable.

There are a few notes I should add, however:

  • Don’t forget to keep the humidifier from sitting in direct sunlight to avoid mold & bacterial growth
  • If the humidifier will be left running continuously, it’s best to leave the door at least partly open to avoid excessive humidity build up
  • As babies are especially sensitive to colds and congestion, a warm mist model is often ideal for sick babies

Additionally, I recommend picking up a quiet one to let your child sleep peacefully.

Key points to remember

Humidifier placement summary
  • Bed: We recommend placing your humidifier several feet from your bed – a minimum of 3 feet or so is good
  • Although you can use them on a floor, placing them at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal
  • Don’t place a humidifier where it will be constantly exposed to sunlight (Ex.: near a window)
  • Avoid placing the unit on top of or very close to wooden surfaces subject to moisture or water damage. A tray or other water-resistant cover underneath the unit can avoid issues from mist droplets or spilled water
  • A non-metallic, level surface is ideal. Do not place on carpet or similar surfaces
  • For best results, place humidifiers closer to the center of the room or even to one side, where ever convenient

Additional reading

Need some advice on the best models worth buying? Check out this helpful guide featuring the best humidifiers for your money. They’re especially great for cough or dry skin relief.

What’s The Difference Between An Air Purifier And Humidifier?

Difference between air purifier and humidifer

Are you unsure of the differences between an air purifier and a humidifier? Hey – it’s totally ok! A long time ago so was I!

Ultimately, if you’re reading this post it’s because you’re wondering, “What’s the difference between an air purifier and a humidifier?” As it turns out, they both serve different but important roles in improving the air quality where you live.

As I own both and have benefited from both, I’ll share with you my personal experiences as well.


Infographic – Air purifier and humidifier facts

Difference between air purifier and purifier infographic

What do humidifiers do?

Vicks V745A humidifier image

Common humidifiers like this super-popular Vicks V745 warm mist model take water and use heat to turn it into water vapor that raises humidity. Have you ever noticed how running a hot shower steams your mirrors and raises the moisture in the air? Humidifiers work the same way.

Humidifiers are electromechanical devices that increase the humidity (moisture) level in a room. They work by slowly taking water in a tank and turning it into a fine mist or vapor which rises in the air in the air where they’re used.

While it may not sound like much, humidifiers really can make a really big difference not only on your overall comfort but your health as well!

How they work

A range of different types exist, but most fall into a few basic categories:

Warm mist: uses heat from electrical power to generate steam

Cool mist: uses other methods like an ultrasonic device to change water into vapor (not heated)

Electromechanical: some use an electric motor and blades or another device to stir the water and create a mist

How dry air affects you

Image of a woman with a cold

Speaking from personal experience, during the wintertime I had difficulty sleeping at night due to discomfort in my nose and sinuses. It was mainly due to what happens to our bodies when the air moisture level drops. I also had a painful, dry cough which caused even more suffering!

The mucus linings in your body’s respiratory system and nasal cavities can become more dry than normal, resulting in discomfort. You’re also more susceptible to sickness under these conditions, too.

Additionally, dry skin becomes a concern and it’s especially tough on people with sensitive skin or other issues.

When I caught a cold, it was much harder to sleep because of the dry air. I felt terrible! It wasn’t until investing in a humidifier that I got relief and could sleep better. My cold symptoms were also less severe when using it.

Colds and sinus problems

Your nose needs gooey mucus to trap viruses and other icky invaders before they can get you sick, dry nostrils can also make you more vulnerable to colds, sinus infections, and the flu.

Getting sick is already tough – but it’s even worse in dry air! Maintaining a healthy humidity level is essential for healing cold or other sicknesses. You’re more prone to suffer coughing, sneezing, and even feel the effects of dust and allergens more than you normally would.

I don’t know about you, but I sniffle quite a bit when I’m having nose problems. After using my humidifier I’ve enjoyed much less discomfort than I used to.

Allergies and asthma

Another result is that those with asthma may have an attack triggered. When using the heating system in your home, dust, pollen, and other allergens are often distributed in the air. They can irritate your airways.

If you already suffer from allergies you’re also more likely to feel the effects. Dry air promotes the movement of particulates like allergens and dust more so than a comfortable humidity level does.

Humidity levels and comfort

Relative humidity comfort scale image diagram

What humidity level do I need?

For most people, a comfortable humidity level falls in the range of about 30-50%. However, note that it varies by person.

During the wintertime and when using heat the moisture can drop dramatically – well below 20 and even 10%! That’s an extremely dry condition.

In tropical climates humidity levels are very high. If you’ve even run a hot shower for a long time it’s a similar effect.

While traveling abroad I’ve visited countries where due to the high humidity I was sweating almost constantly and it was very uncomfortable. In high humidity conditions, your body can’t cool itself as it can under normal circumstances.

Use a humidity and temperature gauge

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gauge

An inexpensive temperature and humidity gauge can be used to tell how dry the air is. They’re fantastic for when to use a humidifier. I keep one handy all year round. I love it!

There’s no need to get the moisture in your room or home exactly right – just remember it’s a general range. You can check air conditions where you are using a simple temperature and humidity gauge like the one shown here.

What humidity should I set my humidifier to?

A good rule of thumb is to aim for about 40-50% humidity when using a humidifier and you’ll soon learn what works best for you.

If using a gauge you can see what’s going on in your home and use your humidifier as needed.. Not only that but you can see patterns in your home as temperatures rise and fall.

Over time I’ve noticed that when I get the moisture back up above 30% I began feeling better and dry air symptoms stop nearly immediately!

During heavy winters and when my heating system is under heavy use, I set mine to high. Under easier conditions, I set it to low.

What does an air purifier do?

GermGuardian AC4900CA in living room

Air purifiers are often used in living rooms or bedrooms. However, they’re ideally used wherever air quality problems and allergies are a concern. Products like this GermGuardian AC4900CA have a tall “tower” shape. They use electric fans to move air through filters to clean the air.

Unlike a humidifier, an air purifier circulates the air and removes contaminants from the air by trapping them in filters. You might not be aware, but there are lots of unwanted elements in the air around you!

Some of the most common are:

  • Pollen and plant by-products
  • Dust mite elements
  • Dust
  • Pet dander
  • Airborne chemicals and odors
  • Outdoor debris brought in
  • Smoke particles
  • Trace elements of household chemicals

…and that’s just to name a few!

Air purifiers are commonly used to improve air quality by circulating the air in a room and removing foreign matter which causes odors, allergies, and health problems. They’re also capable of helping to prevent sickness by trapping some germs and airborne microbes.

How air purifiers work

How air purifiers reduce dust diagram

Air purifiers work by using electric fans to draw in air, force it through filters, and blow out clean air.

Note that although several types exist, most are filter-based and use replaceable filter sections to trap particles and even odors in the air. Other types exist such as ozone generators and ionizers, but the most common and most effective products rely on filters and air motion.

As they’re left to run and circulate the air in a room it becomes fresher and healthier as time goes by. Because of dust and other issues reappearing continually, they should be used regularly or as needed.

HEPA, pre-filter, and activated carbon sections

Purifiers are typically designed to work with 3 common types of filters:

  1. Pre-filter section
  2. Activated carbon (charcoal) section
  3. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter

HEPA filters are made of very dense fiber-like material packed tightly and held inside a rigid frame. They’re designed to be very efficient and they can capture incredibly small particulates in the air down to 0.3 microns in size (A micron is 1/1,000,000 of a meter!). They’re excellent for allergy relief and other air quality issues but don’t really affect odors.

The pre-filter is normally attached to an activated carbon filter section. It’s a thin material that traps larger matter like hair and dust.

GermGuardian FLT11CB4 carbon filter diagramThe activated carbon filter is the portion of an air purifier that absorbs vapors and odors.

After some use a purifier’s filter will become used-up with the matter it has trapped. The carbon filter, after being in use for some time, will lose effectiveness as well.

Most purifiers have about a 6 to 8 months filter lifespan for the prefilter section and 6-8 months life span or even 12 months for the HEPA filter. (Note that the life expectancy relies heavily on the use and conditions)

For this reason, some provide a filter replacement feature to remind you when to check it. Although it varies by manufacturer and product, some allow the filters to be replaced separately while others require replacing a single filter assembly instead.

Air purifier benefits

Dirty air purifier filter that has collected dust

My air purifier’s filter after a few short weeks of use. Lots of dust removed from the air! I was surprised to see how much dust I had lived with for so long. My purifier reduced the amount of cleaning I had to do.

They’re especially helpful to people with allergies and breathing problems. However, they’re also beneficial in many other ways.

For example, they can help with dust and cut the cleaning you’ll need to do in your home. They can also trap odors and chemical vapors as well.

Pet owners can greatly benefit as pets generate dander and hair which triggers allergic reactions. Smokers or people dealing with cigarette smoke and odors know how strong those problems are.

An air purifier is great for dealing with those problems as well.

Additional features

Some purifiers like this popular GermGuardian AC4825 I reviewed also include a germ-killing feature to reduce microbes and prevent sickness.

Others feature timers, air quality sensing, and even a remote control or smartphone connectivity.

Summary – The difference between an air purifier and humidifier

To recap, here’s a simple explanation:

Humidifiers increase the moisture in the air by changing liquid water into steam or water vapor. They increase your comfort and restore a healthy humidity level often lowered in dry climates or wintertime conditions.

Air purifiers circulate air and remove air contaminants in a room by trapping them in filters. They provide for many common problems like bad smells, allergy symptoms, pet-related issues, dust mite effects, and reducing dust.

You can find out a bit more about humidifiers here as well.  If you’re considering an air purifier, you can learn more here about what kind you need.

You’ll find some great examples of excellent purifiers below $100 here.

What Type Of Humidifier Is Best For Baby Congestion?

What type of humidifier is best for baby congestion featured image

Congestion, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms of colds can really cause your baby to suffer a lot. Constantly breathing in dry air makes it even worse!

I know, as I’ve personally dealt with the same and it’s terrible. Buying a humidifier was one of the best things I ever did!

But what type of humidifier is best for your baby’s congestion? In this detailed post, I’ll show you.

I’ll also show you how to check the air moisture level, what humidity levels are best for babies, and a few recommended models.


Infographic – Baby and humidifier facts

What does a humidifier do for babies infographic image

Warm mist vs cool mist humidifiers

The two most effective types of humidifiers commonly sold today are:

  1. Warm mist
  2. Cool mist

(I won’t be discussing another type, evaporative humidifiers, that I covered in this detailed post because they’re not very effective for these types of baby problems)

While warm and cool mist humidifiers are very similar in what they do there are details you need to know.

Warm mist humidifiers

Warm mist humidifiers like this very popular and inexpensive Vicks V745 model produce very fine steam that’s created by heating water. They’re fantastic for helping to relieve a baby’s dry nose and throat as well as congestion. They’ll also help your child sleep better, too.

Warm mist humidifiers increase the humidity in a room by creating a slightly warm steam that results from heating water.

Unlike cool mist humidifiers, the water vapor (steam) isn’t at room temperature but does have a bit of extra warmth that it adds to the room.

However, it’s a gentle, soft amount that’s not overbearing like running a hot shower or other sources of water vapor. Many feature a vapor level switch or dial to control how much they produce.

Additionally, warm mist humidifiers produce the closest thing to natural humidity found outdoors.

Cool mist humidifiers

Crane elephant cool mist humidifier

Products like the Crane elephant kid's cool humidifier create water vapor that increases room humidity differently. They use electronic methods such as ultrasonic technology to turn water into a fine mist. They don’t use or add heat to do so.

Cool mist humidifiers are similar in the job they do but a bit different in how they add humidity.

This type uses electromechanical technology like ultrasonic vibration to turn room temperature water into a fine mist released into the air. They do not use heat or add heat to a room.

While they’re great for helping many conditions a baby may suffer from, when it comes to the congestion it’s a different matter.

These types are a great match for dry climates as they won’t add temperature to a room.  They’re also still very helpful for relief from typical dry air symptoms like dry skin, difficulty sleeping, and greater sensitivity to allergens.

Warm mist vs cool mist comparison table

Water vapor method Electrically heated water (steam vapor) Electromechanically dispersed water (fine water vapor)
Helpful for common dry air problems for babies? Yes Yes
Adds heat to room? Yes No
Noise Level Very quiet Ultra quiet
Congestion Relief Very good Poor

As you can see, both have their strengths and weaknesses. 

What type of humidifier do I need for my baby?

Here’s the fast and short answer:

In most cases, a warm mist humidifier is best for your baby’s congestion. 

For conditions such as colds and other congestion-causing sicknesses, a warm mist humidifier doesn’t just relieve dryness for your child. They’re also very helpful for relieving congested sinuses and throat problems.

A warm mist humidifier’s biggest advantage is that it produces a warm steamy mist that’s extremely helpful for cold and sinus congestion relief. It’s a remedy that’s been around forever and is still recommended today by medical experts.

Just like how a hot steamy shower can help your cold by opening your sinus congestion and allow mucus to leave they work the same way. Additionally, the water mist brings the air back to a natural, healthy state.

What is humidity and how does it affect babies?

Humidity is a term used to describe the amount of water moisture in the air around you. We rarely think about until the air gets too dry and we begin to feel the effects. Condensation on cool objects (like the bottle pictured above) is caused by nearby water molecules in the air collecting (condensing) on a surface.

Humidity is of measuring the amount of moisture present in the air around us. For example, after a hard rain and when the sun comes out the outdoors feels very “muggy” and uncomfortable.

It’s because of extra moisture released into the air.

Likewise, the reverse is true. In dry climates and during the cold of winter the air feels very dry and we begin to feel the symptoms of dry air. That’s due to very low humidity.

Relative humidity is a scientific name that helps to describe how much humidity is in the air for a given temperature.

Humidity and temperature are both related to each other as only a certain amount of humidity can be held by the air for a given temperature.

How humidity affects your baby

Overheating baby closeup image

Babies are much more sensitive to hardships like higher temperatures, humidity problems, and air quality difficulties than adults. You should never assume they’ll be able to handle uncomfortable conditions the same way you can. It’s critical to give them safe – and comfortable – humidity levels at home.

High humidity

High humidity is found in many climates like those near coastal areas (locations near an ocean or other larger body of water). It’s also common in areas like where I live: the southeastern United States.

In those areas, the air, when humidity is high, feels exceptionally uncomfortable and even more “hot” even though the temperature might not be so high.

The reason is that high humidity conditions prevent you and your baby from being able to cool well. For babies this means that they’ll have a difficult time sleeping, they’ll sweat much more than normal, and they’ll be much more irritable and upset.

For situations with high humidity, you’ll need an air conditioner or a high-quality fan like I recommend here for cooling of your child’s sleep area.

Low humidity

The typical cold and other sicknesses (including congestion) are especially hard on infants and babies.

Low humidity causes several unpleasant effects for babies:

  • Dry skin
  • Drying and stuffy nose & sinuses
  • Rashes can become worse
  • Increased susceptibility to sickness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sensitivity to the dry air: coughing and symptoms that resemble allergies
  • Nosebleeds
  • Static electricity increasing and static cling
  • Recovery from sickness takes longer
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty sleeping

Unfortunately, the sad part I’ve learned is that so many of these are preventable. Sadly many mothers and fathers don’t use humidifiers to relieve the dry air which is responsible for their baby’s suffering.

It’s truly heartbreaking if you think about it!

At healthy humidity levels (between 40 to 60%) the human body produces normal and healthy amounts of mucous in breathing passageways such as the sinuses, throat, and nose.

When moisture levels are extremely low these membranes in the body dry out and cannot produce normal levels of protective and moist covering as the normally would.

This causes these breathing passageways to dry out and results in pain and discomfort. They’re also more susceptible to sickness-causing microbes and other airborne contaminants.

How to tell if you need a humidifier

Relative humidity comfort scale image diagramTo keep your baby comfortable, reduce sickness, and relieve congestion, you can use a humidifier to bring the level back into the comfort range as shown here. No need to get it perfectly exact – just bring it back to a healthy range for great results & comfort.

You’ll need a humidifier when the humidity drops to uncomfortable levels.

To be more specific, when the humidity around your baby’s room or in your home reaches 30% and below it’s time to use a humidifier.

The ideal range you’ll want is between 30%-50% approximately. It’s perfectly fine if it’s not exactly that number. We just need a general range to breathe and live well.

Ideally, a good rule of thumb to use is 40-50%.

How to check humidity levels

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gauge

In order to know and check your baby’s comfort level, all you’ll need is an inexpensive one like this great little one from Amazon. Also called a “hygrometer”, it’s simply a digital humidity level meter that also measures temperature as well. I own one and it has helped me tremendously!

To know what’s really going on in the temperature and humidity around your baby, you’ll want to use a hygrometer, which is simply a device used to measure humidity levels.

Today’s models are inexpensive and use a digital device to measure, calculate, and display not only the humidity but temperature as well. They take the guesswork out of wondering how dry the air is around your child and home.

I own one personally and it has been incredibly helpful. When I became sick with a cold (and during times I wasn’t sick) last winter I was having difficulty sleeping.

My cold was even more difficult because of the dry air! I picked up a digital humidity and temperature gauge and discover the humidity in my home was very low – down to 20% and below.

Immediately I was able to see I needed a warm mist humidifier to help relieve my congestion. That’s exactly what I purchased and it helped me so much.

What to put in a humidifier for congestion

Vicks humidifier vapor liquid and pads example

Some, but not all, warm mist humidifiers allow the use of add-in liquids or pads to give added cold and congestion relief. Left: A medicated liquid example. Right: Solid pads, when placed into a provided special opening, release soothing menthol as the water vapor passes by.

Some humidifiers types (see below for a great example) have an extra feature that allows adding medicated vapor liquids or solid pads.

The humidifier then fills the air with the soothing combination which helps your baby’s congestion even more. Menthol and related mixtures are some of the most common.

However, it’s important to know beforehand that the model you buy allows these – especially liquids. 

Some manufacturers recommend that you don’t use anything besides standard distilled water.

While there of course just an option, they’re very helpful and your child will feel relief every time they’re used.

How much do humidifiers cost?

For both warm mist or cool mist humidifiers, you can expect to spend roughly $25-$60 or so depending upon the room size coverage, water tank size, and features.

Generally speaking, I’d recommend planning to spend around $35 and above for a great model that will be effective at relieving your baby’s congestion and colds.

Features to shop for

Ecommerce computer image

Although there are many inexpensive models on the market or those designed for small rooms, I don’t recommend those.

By shopping smarter and buying a model with a larger water tank you’ll save a lot of work and effort as you won’t have to refill the water tank as often.

Here are some other features I recommend:

  • Auto-shutoff for when the tank becomes empty
  • Low-water/shutoff indicator light
  • Adjustable humidity settings: High, low
  • Medicated liquid and/or medicated menthol pad support
  • Good quality design and simple use
  • Quiet operation

Editor’s Choice best value

Vicks V745A humidifier Editors Choice image

I’ve awarded the Vicks V745A my Editor’s Choice award and recommend it as the best buy and a great overall value.

It’s affordable (below $50) and provides all the same great features you need to help your child’s congestion, colds, and much more.

It’s also identical to the same model I own and personally use, so I speak from personal experience when I say I’m very happy with mine.

There are 2 steam settings (high and low). There’s also auto-shutoff when the water runs out, a 1-gallon water tank, an empty tank/shutoff light, and you can add both pads or liquids, too!

I get about 8.5 to 12 hours of use out of mine with one tank of water. It’s great for sleeping, and it’s very quiet.

Check it out! Be sure to head over to Amazon and see why so many people love it for their little ones.