Humidifier Safety in Toddlers' Rooms

Many doctors recommend a humidifier to help ease coughs and sniffles during the cold winter months. As the name suggests, humidifiers add fluid, or humidity, to a room that may be too dry due to cold weather 1. While designed to help keep toddlers healthy, a humidifier can present both health and safety hazards to toddlers. Both you and your toddler can sleep soundly once you ensure you're using the humidifier safely.

Machine Safety

A humidifier is an electric machine that will be working throughout the night, when you may be sleeping in another room. Therefore, it is vital to choose the right machine and placement to protect your toddler’s curious fingers. First of all, the Mayo Clinic website encourages parents of young children to avoid heat or steam humidifiers 1. These machines create steam, which has the potential to burn skin. Place the machine on a firm, flat surface. Unplug the unit when not in use and make sure that the cord is out of reach at all times.

Breathing Safety

After using a humidifier with tap water, many parents discover a fine dust on the surfaces in the child’s room. Minerals in the water become airborne through the mist and deposit on furniture and floors. However, the dust can also work its way into the child’s lungs. In 2010, Dr. Robin Deterding reported the case of a child exposed to long hours of humidifier use. This child developed serious lung complications due to the airborne minerals trapped in the lungs. This has raised the question of safety for all children. Deterding encourages all parents to use distilled water to prevent this risk.


The ideal humidity level for the average home is between 30 and 50 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic website 1. Higher levels of humidity can encourage the growth of mold in the room. Lower levels leave the child feeling dry and irritate the child’s throat and nasal passages. Many home humidifiers have a sensor that measures the ambient humidity of the room, shutting off the unit when optimal humidity is reached 1.

Cleaning the Humidifier

You should clean your humidifier every three or four days when used. Never leave the unit full when not in use. This encourages the growth of mold inside the machine. Always clean your machine after use and before putting the unit in storage. When cleaning the machine, take the pieces apart and rinse thoroughly. Refer to your manufacturer’s directions for cleaning solution. If you no longer have the directions, soak the unit in vinegar to remove any mineral buildup. Scrub the parts with a discarded toothbrush or bottle brush. Dry the pieces completely before packing the machine away.