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

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? In this post I’ll answer that question and provide a lot of basics facts to show you why they’re so helpful.

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that buying a good humidifier was one of the best things I’ve even done. During times of dry air (like during cold months) it dramatically improved my comfort level and helped me overcome my colds & sickness.

Owning a humidifier helped me so much it inspired me to share with others how much of a great difference owning one can make!

Infographic – What does a humidifier do for babies? How they can help

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 there is in air at a given temperature compared to air that is dry. If the moisture in the air is too high (high humidity, too much water vapor) 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 is common. Also, babies who get sick have a harder time recovering and suffer more if the air is too dry.

Humidity (often expressed as a percentage and called relative humidity) is 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.

High humidity effects

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.

Low humidity effects

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 amount 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 primarily the range in which most children and adults feel good, have optimal 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 ensures it’s a great midpoint for not just your children but 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 summer time when I arrive home and I can tell immediately if I need to run the air conditioning for some time.

Just place 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 require electricity, products like this one can provide almost immediate relief and have additional features. Expect to spend about $35 and above for a good model.

So what exactly is a humidifier? A humidifier is a device which changes liquid water into a fine mist or steam and releases it into the air in order 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 humidifier, although I’ll cover the most practical and popular ones in this post:

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

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 require no power to operate, but as you might have guessed they’re very slow to work.

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.

Electromechanical

Impeller humidifier example image

Electromechanical 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 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 can provide 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 quite 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 consider when shopping.

Note that warm mist models require you 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!

Your comments are welcome!

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