What Is an Incubator Used For?

Reviewed on 2/5/2021

An incubator is an insulated enclosure where temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions are regulated
An incubator is an insulated enclosure where temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions are regulated

An incubator is an insulated enclosure where temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions are regulated at optimal levels for growth, reproduction, or hatching.

There are three types of incubators:

Poultry incubators: They are used for

  • Keeping the fertilized egg of chickens warm until they are ready to hatch.
  • Larger commercial incubators can hold as many as 75,000 eggs at one time.

Infant incubators: They are used for

  • Providing a warm environment for babies born prematurely.
  • Maintaining normal body temperature of infants born prematurely who are unable to do so.
  • Protecting the preemie from infection, allergens, or excessive noise or light levels that can cause harm.
  • Controlling the concentration of oxygen inside the incubator if the infants have oxygen deprivation, hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels), metabolic acidosis, and rapid depletion of glycogen stores.
  • Monitoring and providing extra oxygen to infants who will have fluid or meconium in their lungs.
  • Providing special lights to help reduce jaundice in newborns.
  • Constantly monitoring and providing additional support to newborns who have been through a long or traumatic delivery.
  • Recovering from surgical complications following their births.

Bacteriological incubators: They are used for

  • Promoting the growth of bacteria or other microorganisms in various culture media.
  • Identifying the type of microorganisms in the sample of the patient’s blood, mucus, or other secretions.

They are also used in microbiology, biochemistry, dairy, and other food-processing industries, as well as water and sewage treatment plans.

What is an infant incubator made off?

The infant incubator is made of a small, glass-walled box with many apertures fitted with long rubber gloves through which the nurses can handle and care for the infant. There are special devices that control the concentration of oxygen and regulate the humidity inside the enclosure.

These devices supply a closed, controlled environment that keeps the infant warm by providing heated air over the skin. The infant’s skin absorbs the heat by tissue conduction and blood convection. There should only be a minor variation between the skin and core temperatures of the baby.

What are the different types of incubators?

Different types of incubators can accommodate the varying needs of the preemie. The most common types of incubators found in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) include:

  • Open box incubators or Armstrong incubators: These provide heat from beneath to the baby. Otherwise, they remain open to the air for easy access.
  • Closed box incubators: They are closed from all sides. However, they have fresh air filtration and prevent the risk of infection and moisture loss in the air.
  • Transport or portable incubator: They are used to move the newborn from one part of the hospital to another.
  • Double-walled incubators: This incubator has two walls to lock in the moisture and air.
  • Servo-control incubators: It is automatically programmed to adjust temperature and humidity levels. The skin sensors attached to the baby helps regulate the temperature and humidity levels in the incubators.


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The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Incubator. Encyclopaedia Britannica. February 27, 2012. https://www.britannica.com/technology/incubator

ECRI Institute. Incubator, Infant. World Health Organization. 2011. https://www.who.int/medical_devices/innovation/incubator_infant.pdf

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