Humidifiers are starting to gain popularity in the list of baby must-haves. However, before you jump in the trend, you should do your research about this device thoroughly. For example, one of the most common questions that one may ask is, “When to use a humidifier for baby?”
Use a Humidifier When Your Baby is Sick
Alleviate Cold and Cough Symptoms
You can classify humidifiers into cool mist and warm mist types. To give you an idea, they are so-called because of the temperature of the mist they emit. But although they have their differences, both humidifiers can relieve a number of symptoms. And one of the most popular ways parents use them is to relieve their baby of congestion and cold.
Dry air, as you can assume, can cause drying of the sinuses. This leads the inside of the nose to be sore, which can further cause nosebleeds. In fact, it can also cause the mucus in the nasal passages to drain out longer, making breathing more difficult. Sadly, babies are more susceptible to these effects. And consequently, these uncomfortable symptoms can rob them of a good night’s sleep.
Humidifiers bring back the moisture in the air, and of course, in those nasal passages. This effect will eventually thin out the mucus, making it easier for your baby’s system to get rid of them quicker. And because the body is no longer compensating for the dryness, the nasal passages will eventually clear out along with the stuffy feeling.
Did you know that you can even add medicated vapors to certain units? An excellent example is the use of Vick’s VapoSteam with Vick’s warm mist humidifier. Adding this inhalant to the mist not only gives a soothing ambiance, but also hastens the humidifier’s effect as a decongestant and cough remedy.
Soothe Dry, Eczema-Prone Skin
But besides respiratory illnesses, dry air is also notorious for aggravating dry skin. Eczema, which is a skin condition characterized by dry, itchy patches, is common in babies. Although it is treatable, we’re sure you’d prefer to get rid of this condition as fast as possible.
Babies have naturally sensitive skin so they can be irritated easily in certain conditions. You can avoid the effects of dry air by bringing back moisture. This can help your baby’s skin to retain its water content and not worsen eczema further.
Use a Humidifier for Better Sleep
Can you only use a humidifier if your baby is sick? The answer is no. And you don’t have to wait for your little one to show symptoms either. If you seek to give your little one a good night’s sleep, you can start by helping him/her breathe better. It might sound weird, but yes, something as primitive as breathing can get better.
It doesn’t matter if your baby doesn’t have an existing illness. When the air is dry, he/she can show symptoms such as coughing. You can also imagine that dry air leaves the skin feeling itchy, including chapped lips. So generally, it just doesn’t feel comfortable to sleep at all.
But besides bringing back the lost moisture in the air, the humidifier itself can even act as a white noise machine. The majority of the units in the market are fitting for night time use. That’s because even if your baby is a light sleeper, the slow, soothing hum of the humidifier will not cause a distraction. In fact, this sound would rather drown out external noises necessary for a peaceful slumber. As backed up by this study, white noise would even make it easier for your little one to fall asleep.
Now, since we’re talking about improved sleep, manufacturers have stepped it up and include a variety of beneficial functions in their units. For example, most humidifiers now have a night light feature. Remember that some children feel more secure with a dim light during night time? And more than medicated vapors, you can create a more sleepy ambiance using a model that has an essential oil cup. By adding a few drops of lavender oil, you can guarantee that your little one will be snoozing in no time.
Use a Humidifier During Winter
When is the best time to use a humidifier? Well, you can reap more benefits if you use it during the winter months. Heaters can make our chilly selves more comfortable, but they can also cause moisture loss. And because the cold weather makes babies more prone to respiratory illnesses, the dry air can worsen their symptoms.
Energy-Saving Heater Replacement
Warm mist humidifiers are sometimes overlooked because they have a scalding risk. But as long as you make sure that your unit is out of your little one’s reach, the benefits outweigh the risks. The warm mist they emit can counteract the coldness of the temperature making everyone more comfortable. And as an added benefit, they consume less energy too!
During winter, your surroundings become less humid, and even the air itself has a lower moisture level. And if you use a heater, you’re sapping all the remaining moisture in the air. What’s worse is that this dry winter air is favorable for viruses and bacteria to stay active for longer.
Babies have smaller airway passages, which means they are susceptible to drying them faster. Combine that with a weaker immune system against contaminants, and you’ll dread the chilly months for your little one. Humidifiers, as long as they are cleaned diligently and kept at the recommended level, can make the air healthier and warmer (for warm mist models.) for your baby.
Use a Humidifier to Reach a Healthy Home Humidity Level
Previously, we have stressed that for humidifiers to work safely and efficiently, you must use them in the recommended humidity level. And if we are tackling the topic on when is the best time to use a humidifier for your baby, this factor is going to be significant.
Before you search for the best humidifier for baby, take a step back, and assess your home’s relative humidity. For example, if you notice fogging and condensation on your windows, then the humidity level could be high. This is the same reason if you always catch mold growing on the ceilings and walls. On the contrary, your home might have a low humidity level if you experience static electric shocks from the carpet easily. You can also notice some cracks on painted surfaces.
Another device that is sometimes included in humidifiers is a humidistat. What it does is it will automatically regulate the humidifier’s output depending on the room’s humidity. This way, you can simply leave the humidifier in your baby’s room without worrying about over or under-humidifying it.
What is the Best Indoor Humidity Level?
The straight answer is between 30 to 50 percent. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends keeping your indoor humidity between this range to prevent mold growth. It is also worth noting that 40 to 60% of humidity is healthy for our body simply because bacteria would have a hard time growing within this range. And in fact, some children’s hospitals keep their air humidity level at 55%.
Another good rule of thumb is to reduce your indoor humidity level by 5% for every 10-degree drop of the outdoor temperature. If the outdoor temperature drops around 10 to 20 degrees, reduce your indoor humidity to 35%. And if the air temperature outside is between 20 to 40 degrees, keep your humidity level inside at 40%.
We know these are a lot of numbers, but you still have to consider the room’s construction, including its insulation, before choosing a setting. As we have said earlier, a hygrometer and a humidistat will give you accurate readings suitable for your baby’s room.
The humidity level is also going to be dictated by where you would place the humidifier. For example, if you place it close to your child’s crib, the overall room’s humidity wouldn’t be as high compared to this area. Hence, your risk for mold growth will also be lower.
The Risks of Using a Humidifier for Baby
Burns from Warm Mist Humidifiers
A significant consideration before you start using a humidifier for your baby is its risks. Let’s start with the obvious one with warm mist humidifiers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends cool mist types over them because of the scalding risk.
Because the mist that they emit are warmer, children might burn themselves if they get too close. And the fact that they are filled with hot water also makes them scary if they are accidentally knocked over.
We think that for younger babies who aren’t capable of moving too much yet, a warm mist humidifier is not as risky. But as we have said earlier, it is your duty to place it away from his/her reach, regardless.
Dirty Tank and Contaminated Water
Another risk that you should be careful about is mold build-up inside the water tank. Earlier, we have talked about how high humidity levels can promote mold growth. But this time, let us tackle how the humidifiers themselves can become nasty without proper maintenance.
This is the same reason why you should be extra diligent in cleaning units with nooks and crannies. And if the model also happens to have a small tank opening, you’d have a harder time reaching into each area. You can avoid nasty build-ups by cleaning the unit several times a week. You can also opt for humidifiers that have dishwasher safe tanks and large reservoir openings. This way, you can make sure that you’ve cleaned your unit thoroughly.
Other than cleaning, you also have to ensure that you’ve dried the inside of your humidifier after each wash. If it stays damp, then you’re just making it more enticing for germs to reintroduce themselves.
Mineral Deposits and White Dust
Lastly, did you know that you should use distilled water in your humidifier? The reason for this is because certain areas have hard water in their tap. Hard water has a higher mineral content, which will eventually cause mineral deposits and limescale in the reservoir. These deposits are tricky to remove and can even affect your unit’s functionality in the long run.
Using hard water with ultrasonic humidifiers can also cause white dust around the humidifier’s proximity as a by-product. If you have a baby, the last thing you’d want to do is busy yourself with constantly wiping every surface.
But before you start cleaning your model, remember that manufacturers have specific instructions that you must follow. Abiding them will elongate your unit’s lifespan and will also allow you to use it more efficiently.
Overall, a humidifier is an excellent addition in the nursery. As long as you keep it thoroughly cleaned and within the recommended humidity range, you can appreciate its benefits for your little one. You can use this device whether your baby is sick or not, without a specific time frame. But just like with everything you introduce to your baby, consult his/her pediatrician beforehand.