Informational Guide

How Close Should Humidifier Be To a Baby?

Keeping the humidifier too close to your baby can be dangerous. We discuss how close a humidifier should be to your baby so they can be safe & comfortable.

by Holly Curell

Because of their more delicate constitutions, babies especially benefit from healthy air in the home. However, adults and children benefit from humidifiers in similar ways.

So, if you feel the need to purchase a humidifier for your baby, you probably should try to humidify your whole home.

That said, it is important not to overdo it: keeping the humidifier too close to your baby can actually be harmful. This article discusses how close a humidifier should be to your baby and best practices for using humidifiers with babies.

Humidifiers are a chemical-free and relatively sustainable way to get a variety of health benefits. They add moisture to the air, which reduces drying of skin and respiratory passages; furthermore, moist air actually reduces transmission of some pathogens.

The result is less illness in the first place—as well as symptom relief during illness, relief of skin problems, and greater overall comfort. Humidifiers do not prevent infection or cure illnesses, but they can help make life easier in several ways:

  • Prevent some infections – Relative humidity in the generally recommended 40 – 60% range impedes flu virus transmission. According to a 2019 Forbes article, there are several possible reasons for this, one being the reduction of dry skin particles in the air.
  • Help nasal congestion and ease coughing – Some parents might be wary of giving their baby too much medication. The right type of humidifier, if used properly, can reduce the need for nasal or respiratory decongestion meds.
  • Reduce severity of dry skin and eczema in babies – Dry skin is uncomfortable for anyone, especially those with pre-existing skin problems. Babies are more prone to sensitive skin issues and rashes; some even temporarily develop eczema. Humidifiers are a chemical-free way to soothe pain and itching.
  • Act as a natural sleep aid – Aside from physical comfort, the consistent sound, along with the lighting, could be calming to some babies. However, much like adults, babies can vary in what they find relaxing. Some might love a lit-up humidifier, while this might keep others awake. The same goes for sound level, but fortunately, most modern humidifiers are fairly quiet.
Woman in White Shirt Carying a Baby

How Close Should a Humidifier be to Your Baby?

Proper Placement in The Nursery

The overall goal is to raise the relative humidity of the whole room without drenching a particular area. Therefore, where you should place a humidifier in a baby’s room could vary greatly with room configuration and situation.

Be sure the humidifier is aimed towards the center of the room, not at walls, furniture, or your infant. If the air is very dry and your child is suffering greatly from congestion, then consider putting the humidifier a little closer and/or directing the steam more in the direction of the crib.

For other rooms, we suggest reading this guide.

Distance from Baby’s Crib or Bed

Normally, the best place to put a humidifier in a baby’s room is no less than 3 feet from the bed/crib. Regardless of humidifier type, there are problems with shooting steam directly at a baby:

  1. .Warm steam humidifiers might create oppressive warmth. If one is really overzealous in putting the humidifier close to their child (or the child happens to get too close), there might even be enough warm steam to burn skin and mucus membranes.
  2. .Cool steam units do not eliminate risks from putting the humidifier too close to a baby’s bed. However: ultrasonic models especially are more prone to ejecting dissolved minerals, bacteria, and fungi than other humidifier types, and these impurities usually land in the greatest concentration close to the humidifier.
  3. .Evaporative humidifiers avoid the above problems but are noisier than others and tend to have a cooling effect on anyone close by.
Sleeping Baby

Correct Height from the Ground

It is best to position a humidifier at least a couple of feet off the floor—this allows more effective moisture diffusion throughout the room and reduces chances that moisture will settle into floor/carpet and cause damage or mold growth.

However, if this is unduly difficult in your situation, you can still use a humidifier; most will work fine on the floor, especially since many humidifiers shoot the vapor stream at an upward angle.

Whether on a table or on the floor, always be sure to put the humidifier on a flat, solid, non-absorbent, non-porous, water-resistant surface. Use a tray or special mat, if needed.

Correct Placement of a Humidifiers (By Type)

How close a cool-mist humidifier should be to a baby depends somewhat on humidifier design and room shape. The goal is really to create a higher-humidity space, rather than to spray directly at the child.

Therefore, the humidifier should be positioned and adjusted to project moisture upwards and towards the room’s center.

This is especially true for all ultrasonic models because of the possible dissolved particles in the vapor stream.

Moreover, keep in mind that these units are very efficient at pumping out moisture, so these humidifiers do not need to be really close to your baby to make an impact.

Even if an ultrasonic humidifier directs steam directly up, it is still best to keep it a few feet from the baby’s bed.

Blue and White Ultrasonic Humidifier

Be aware that some evaporative humidifiers have fan blades behind their grille slats. Therefore, make sure the humidifier is out of a child’s finger reach, or consider a different humidifier type/model.

While the hot steam of some warm mist units can be a hazard if a baby (or any other being) gets too close, note that more and more modern warm mist humidifiers are literally just warm—the mist is cooled enough that it is harmless, to the point that some reviewers will complain that it is hardly warm.

A unit like this offers the benefits of a warm mist humidifier (disinfection, removal of water impurities, no uncomfortable cooling sensation) without hazardous heat. You can put these humidifiers closer to a crib or child bed if space is limited or more intense humidification is needed.

Vaporizers

Vaporizer is really just a special term for a warm-steam humidifier; it is often used for humidifiers with medicated steam: Vicks is the most famous brand of these devices and their accompanying products Vicks VapoSteam and Vicks VapoPads.

Safety Guidelines: Using Humidifiers Safely in a Baby’s Room

Choose the Right Type of Humidifier:

Gentle and consistent noise and lighting; nightlight, if desired; and proper size for the room.

Maintain exemplary humidifier hygiene practices—clean the humidifier twice as often as you would for a humidifier in your own room, and make sure the area around the humidifier is generally kept dry.

Avoid humidifier disinfectants, as they have been associated with lung injury in clinical settings, and it is debatable whether popularly sold humidifier disinfectant products really work.

We have tested and reviewed all the top models so you can find the right one here.

The Ultrasonic Vs. Warm Mist Debate:

Most authoritative sources—Consumer Reports and Mayo Clinic—explicitly recommend cool steam (usually ultrasonic) humidifiers for use with babies and children. However, scientific research points to some hazards that, while applicable to all humidifiers, are more strongly associated with ultrasonic humidifiers: the possible detrimental effects of white dust and microorganisms emitted in the vapor stream.

Use a Hygrometer:

The built-in humidistats in some humidifier models tend to be inaccurate; freestanding humidistats give you the power to accurately track the relative humidity and temperature at any point in the room.

Avoid scenarios where the power cord extends across a walking area or anywhere it could be pulled forcefully by accident.

 

Humidistat

 

Active small children have a tendency to pull down things they see above them, and this can cause severe injury or death.

Keep this in mind when positioning a humidifier as your baby progresses past infancy or if you have other small children in the home.

Avoid Humidifier Wire Being Pulled by Kids

People Also Ask (FAQ)

What humidity level is safe for babies?

Babies thrive in the same relative humidity range that adults do, about 40 – 60% RH. Above 70%, there could be enhanced toxic mold growth on room surfaces. Below 30%, babies are more likely to have itchy skin and dry mucus membranes, just as adults do.

Can I leave the humidifier on all night for my baby?

Unlike adults and teens, babies cannot get up in the middle of the night, decide it just does not feel right, and adjust the humidifier to their liking. While an uncomfortable infant or toddler will usually cry, they can also be less aware of their surroundings than adults are.

Therefore, you have to consider the effect of having the humidifier on all night, at the set position and intensity, in the room size of your nursery. Placing a hygrometer beside the crib is a way to get a clear sense of the best place for a humidifier in the baby room.

Are Vicks humidifiers safe for babies?

Generally yes, but it is debatable whether these are really more helpful than normal humidifiers. Also, keep in mind that the same safety rules that apply to regular humidifiers also apply to Vicks humidifiers/vaporizers.

How can I humidify my baby’s room without a humidifier?

While there are other ways, the simplest and safest is to bring a container of boiled/steaming water to the baby room and close the door, but be sure to put this “DIY humidifier” somewhere far out of an active baby’s reach.

Conclusion

Where to place a humidifier in a baby’s room depends on the room’s layout, the climate in your locality and individual residence, and your family’s habits. However, if you consider basic rules and warnings about using a humidifier close to a baby, you should see improvements in your child’s health and healing.

You might even discover that proper humidifier usage in your own room, your older children’s rooms, or even your family rooms, makes your whole family healthier, too.

Holly Curell

Holly Curell is an experienced writer whose work includes technical manuals, blog articles, and more. With a young family at home, her focus is on safe and efficient heating and cooling products that provide the best value for money. When she’s not writing, Holly enjoys reading, hiking, and the odd glass of wine. Read more about our team here.

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