Choosing a Humidifier vs. Air Purifier for Baby

Choosing between a humidifier vs. air purifier for baby is a sensible yet confusing decision.

As we know, babies are delicate, and understanding their needs is important. 

What may not be harmful to an adult could have disastrous repercussions on an infant. 

So when choosing a humidifier vs. an air purifier for your baby, it’s important to consider several factors first.

There are two things you need to know upfront. What your objective is for your baby — what their needs are — and the different purposes between a humidifier and an air purifier. 

Despite some people believing they’re the same thing.

Let’s start off by explaining the purpose of each and how they work.


Humidifier vs. Air Purifier For Baby — Why You’d Want an Air Purifier

When it comes to a humidifier vs. an air purifier for babies — or anyone — they have completely different purposes and functions.

What Is an Air Purifier?

We’re talking about humidifiers vs. air purifiers, but an air purifier is nothing like a humidifier.

Although you can purchase air purifiers attached directly to your home’s central HVAC, for this article, we’ll be discussing portable devices.

Essentially, the purpose of an air purifier is to remove contaminants from the air.

Portable air purifiers are simple appliances made up of an internal filter and a fan. 

They pull unwanted contaminants and particles from the air and then circulate purified air back into the room.

For an hour, this process is repeated several times — how many times depends upon the air purifier’s quality and its CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) rating.

CADR ratings are factored by individual contaminants and the volume of filtered air the air purifier delivers per hour. The higher the number, the better.

The filters are typically made of fiberglass, paper, or mesh fibers. 

And depending on the quality and rating of the filter, it can purify and neutralize several pollutants and particles as they pass over them.

Different filters have different abilities.

Activated carbon filters remove odors, gases such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and even smoke particles.

HEPA filters are high-efficiency filters that can remove pollutants and allergens as small as 0.3 microns. 

Additionally, some air purifiers utilize ultraviolet light to trap and destroy biological impurities, such as mold and bacteria. 

This is an important distinction since the filters mentioned above will only trap and hold on to contaminants; they do not destroy them.

Different Types of Air Purifiers

There are two main types of air purifiers: mechanical and electronic.

Mechanical air purifiers use filters to trap air particles as they pass through them. 

However, electronic air purifiers — such as ionizers — create electric fields or static charges for the particles to pass through. 

They’re drawn to a pair of plates where they are trapped.

But wait. There’s actually a third type of air purifier, but it’s not one you want in your baby’s room. 

These are ozone-generating air purifiers, and we’ll talk a bit more about that in a bit.

Why Do We Need Air Purifiers?


Unfortunately, the air inside your home is often more polluted than outside.

According to a CDC report, “Walking into a modern building can sometimes be compared to placing your head inside a plastic bag filled with toxic fumes.”

That’s not good for anyone, especially your baby.

Indoor air pollution can come from a variety of sources, including:

  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Cooking equipment
  • Mold
  • Pets
  • VOCs (volatile organic compounds)

And none of that includes the contaminants and pollution you bring inside with you. For example, pollen.

Air pollution is harmful to all of us but can be especially detrimental to children. 

Early exposure to excessive indoor pollution can lead to a variety of immediate or later-in-life problems, including:

  • An increased risk of both allergies and asthma, and lung disease
  • A higher probability of developing lung cancer

Are Air Purifiers Safe for Babies?

Typically speaking, yes. Air purifiers are safe for babies. 

However, let’s talk about those ozone-generating air purifiers mentioned above.

Ozone-generating air purifiers are not safe for babies. Many would argue that they’re not safe for adults either.

Where an air purifier that uses a filter only extracts things from the air — in this case, pollutants — ozone generators produce ozone, as the name suggests.

So what is ozone, and why would you not want to place an appliance that creates it in your baby’s room?

 Let’s see what the American Lung Association has to say.

“Ozone (O3) is a gas molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. Often called “smog,” ozone is harmful to breathe. Ozone aggressively attacks lung tissue by reacting chemically with it. When ozone is present, other harmful pollutants are created by the same processes that make ozone.

The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) shields us from much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. However, ozone air pollution at ground level where we can breathe it (in the troposphere) causes serious health problems.”

There shouldn’t be any doubt as to whether or not this is something you want in your home, particularly in your baby’s nursery.

Air Purifier Safety

So again, generally speaking, air purifiers are safe for your baby. Still, like anything else, you should take some precautions.

To reiterate, stay away from air purifiers that generate ozone. 

This could include purifiers that are marketed as ionizers or even some that use UV lights — these sometimes generate ozone as a byproduct of the purification process.

For your baby’s nursery, stick to air purifiers with physical filters that catch and trap air particles and pollutants.

Regarding placement, never put an air filter anywhere your baby might crawl. 

Be sure to follow manufacturers’ guidelines and recommendations.

And finally, it’s very important to change the filters on schedule.

Are Air Purifiers Necessary For Babies?

Ultimately, only you know your baby; only you can answer that question with any degree of certainty.

However, they can generally be a good addition to your baby’s nursery.

It’s a known fact that air pollution can trigger multiple health concerns in children. 

Their lungs are especially sensitive to air pollution, so their health is impacted much quicker than adults when dealing with poor air quality.

The World Health Organization states, “Air pollution is stunting our children’s brains, affecting their health in more ways than we suspected.” 

Additionally, it’s “negatively affecting mental and motor development. It also damages children’s lung function, even at lower levels of exposure.”

Children will benefit from having clean and purified air in their rooms. It will help them sleep better and help protect them from pollutants and allergens.

That’s a whole lot about air purifiers and why you might want one for your baby’s room.

But we’re talking about choosing a humidifier vs. an air purifier for your baby. 

So in what circumstances would you choose a humidifier over an air purifier, and what is a humidifier really for?

Let’s find out.


Humidifier vs. Air Purifier for Baby — Why You’d Want a Humidifier

Frankly, there is no humidifier vs. air purifier debate since they have different functions and produce different results.

What do Humidifiers Do?

Humidifiers have a sole purpose. To add humidity — moisture — to the air. 

A lack of humidity can cause several problems in both adults and children, including:

  • Cracked lips
  • Dry, itchy eyes
  • Dry skin
  • Frequent coughing
  • Irritated nasal passages
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sinus headaches
  • Sore throat

So keeping the air moist — but not too moist — in your baby’s room is essential.

Types Of Humidifiers

Humidifiers can range in size from small portable models to whole-home humidifiers. 

They all have the same basic function, but there are different types of humidifiers available.

  • Evaporators produce humidity using a fan to blow air past evaporating water
  • Impellers use rotating discs rather than heat to vaporize water
  • Ultrasonic use vibration to vaporize water
  • Vaporizers create hot steam, so they should not be used around children

Are Humidifiers Safe For Babies?

Generally speaking, yes. However, there are some risks.

Excessive Humidity

Too much humidity is a bad thing. It can make breathing more difficult and even worsen some allergy symptoms. 

The reaction to common allergens is amplified since they thrive in damp environments.

So if your baby is already sensitive to dust mites, mold, or mildew, their symptoms will be much worse if you pump too much moisture into the air.

Additionally, anyone who has asthma could find their condition aggravated with the use of a humidifier.

If you decide to incorporate a humidifier into your baby’s nursery, use a hygrometer as well. 

Some humidifiers will have this feature included, but they’re often not very accurate. 

So consider purchasing an independent one to keep track of your indoor relative humidity levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends maintaining indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50%. 

Anything above 60% is considered too high and unhealthy.

And finally, as mentioned above, vaporizers produce hot steam. Keep this away from your baby.


Humidifier vs. Air Purifier for Baby – Which is Better?

Where do you live, and what are your baby’s needs?

A humidifier is likely the better choice if your environment is very dry. 

However, suppose you have several pets or live in an urban area with high pollution. In that case, an air purifier may be the better solution.

And in some cases, you may want to consider both.

FAQs on Humidifier vs. Air Purifier for Baby

Will an air purifier help with baby congestion?

Air purifiers may help with baby congestion.

An air purifier will clean the air of pollutants that lead to respiratory issues.

Still, it’s best to see a doctor to determine the cause of their congestion.

Do pediatricians recommend humidifiers?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using cool mist humidifiers.

Do air purifiers help with SIDS?

In the case of SIDS, air circulation is more important, so choose a fan over an air purifier.

Humidifier vs. Air Purifier for Baby – Conclusion

So, what’s your conclusion in the humidifier vs. air purifier for baby debate?

As you discovered, air purifiers and humidifiers have two very different, very distinct functions. 

One cleans the air, while the other adds moisture to the air.

The best choice for your baby will depend on various factors, including your environment and your baby’s current health and needs.

As far as risk factors, if you go with an air purifier, don’t choose an ozone-generating one, and if you go with a humidifier, keep in mind that the recommendation is to keep indoor humidity between 30 and 50%. 

Any higher than that, and you’re causing problems for your baby, not solving them.

READ NEXT: The Best Air Purifiers for Baby Nursery in 2023