Humidification in Sick Kids: The Do's and Don’ts

With *so much* illness going around during these winter months, it is hard to know what is the best thing to do for our little ones.

We are often asked about humidifiers and vaporisers. Do they work? Are they recommended? Are they safe for little ones?

Humidification in Sick Kids: The Do's and Don’ts

The use of humidifiers and vaporisers in the house when our kids are sick is such a common question that we get asked in the Emergency Department (ED) and throughout the community.

The theory is that they provide moisture into the air and this can help ease congestion, calm a sore throat and ease a cough.

If you look at the evidence there is nothing that suggests they are a benefit in the home environment, however this doesn’t mean they are a waste of time.

If you feel they benefit your family and provide some relief, that is so great.

If you have never tried one, just make sure you write down the symptoms of your little one before and after their use- because yes, they may help, but they can also make symptoms worse.

There are many products out on the market to put moisture into the air. The most common ones include vaporisers and humidifier.

A vaporiser boils the water and the steam moistens the air, where as a humidifier released a fine cool mist into the air.

For safety reasons, a humidifier is much safer, as a vaporiser can cause burns if your little one gets too close to it or knocks it over.

Kidsafe Victoria state ‘Steam inhalation and the use of inhalants designed to help clear nasal and respiratory congestion is a common practice, however this is NOT recommended for children due to the risk of burns.’

The Australian and New Zealand Burn Association says not to use steam inhalation with children due to risk of burns. They also recommend NEVER use boiling water for inhalation treatments and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions

Pros and cons to humidification

As I have said there is no reported evidence to the benefits of using humidification devices to help your child when they are sick at home, however feedback reported from the general population that it can help ease a dry cough, blocked nose and respiratory symptoms.

• Burns from hot liquid
• Too much humidification can be detrimental
• If they are not kept clean they can breed bacteria and mould
• Over use of these devices can cause mould in the home
• If using with essential oils, it is a poison risk. In particular if using tee tree and eucalyptus.

Although there is no evidence that suggests a benefit to humidified air in the home when our kids are sick, do what works for your family. Keep in mind the safety warnings that go with them including keeping them with away from little people and in a safe place.


Written on the 2nd of May 2022 by Laura, a Paediatric Emergency Nurse and mum of two little loves. As always, information on this website is for educational purposes only.

Please consult your GP for information specific to your child.

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