Learn reasons why it can be beneficial to have a humidifier in baby's room, and safety precautions you'll need to take when buying and running a humidifier for baby.
Do you need to buy a humidifier for baby's room? Most babies don't need a humidifier running in their room all the time, but there are many situations when a humidifier is beneficial. So, many parents should consider adding a humidifier to the room where baby sleeps.
A humidifier increases the humidity of a space by releasing water vapor into the air. It can be extremely helpful if your little one is sick, if their room has particularly dry air, or if their skin is prone to dryness (including because of eczema).
But if you don't choose the right humidifier and maintain it properly, a humidifier can do more harm than good.
Here are some reasons why you may choose to use a humidifier for baby -- and what to keep in mind when you purchase and use a humidifier.
When can babies benefit from a humidifier?
Here are some reasons why you might want to have a humidifier in baby's room:
In case baby gets a cold, has a cough, or has congestion
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends having a humidifier in baby's room. One of the main reasons for this is in case baby gets a cold (or has congestion or a cough for another reason).
It's not safe for babies to take cough and cold medicines. But a humidifier is a safe way to help relieve cold symptoms. The moisture that the humidifier releases in the air helps thin out baby's congestion and reduce coughing.
If baby has eczema
Dryness in the air is one common cause of eczema flares. If your baby has eczema, and they're in a dry room for the entire night, they're at increased risk of flares that can disrupt sleep.
But running a humidifier in baby's room can help moisten the air and reduce the likelihood of uncomfortable flares.
How often to run the humidifier when baby has eczema? Usually, running it 1-2 nights per week is enough for babies and toddlers.
When the room's air is dry
Even if baby doesn't have eczema and isn't otherwise prone to dry skin, your pediatrician may recommend buying a humidifier if the air in baby's room is dry.
And baby's room can easily be prone to dry air during the winter, especially if you're heating your home with a full-home heating system. That's because the heater draws moisture out of the air. Plus, the air outside your home is naturally dryer than normal.
To help baby sleep
Certain humidifiers make whooshing or humming sounds, almost like a white noise machine. This mimics the familiar, relaxing sounds baby heard when they were in the womb. As a result, it may help your little one fall asleep -- and stay asleep.
So, if baby has trouble sleeping (or you just want to encourage them to stay asleep -- invaluable for your own rest!) you may want a humidifier in their room.
What if baby has allergies or asthma?
Even though humidifiers usually help relieve congestion (including allergy congestion) and make breathing easier, you should still talk to your doctor before using a humidifier if baby has asthma or environmental allergies.
Unfortunately, humidifiers can trigger a buildup of dust, or even mold, when used incorrectly or not cleaned often enough. This can potentially make asthma and certain allergy symptoms worse.
What to keep in mind when purchasing a humidifier?
If you've decided to purchase a humidifier for baby's room, for any reason, you'll need to make sure you select the cool-mist kind.
Like their name indicates, cool-mist humidifiers release a cool mist of water into the air to increase the surrounding humidity.
They're different from hot-water humidifiers (sometimes called warm mist humidifiers), which heat the water inside and release it into the air as a warm steam.
Unfortunately, the hot water and steam in heated humidifiers pose a burn risk to babies and young children. So, you'll need to avoid hot-water humidifiers.
Cool-mist humidifiers are much safer for baby, and they're just as effective for adding humidity to a space.
Look for any these types of cool-mist humidifiers:
- Impellers, which use a rotating disk to make the cool mist
- Ultrasonic humidifiers, which use vibration to produce the cool mist
What to keep in mind when using a humidifier in baby's room?
The most important thing to keep in mind if you buy a humidifier is that the humidifier requires frequent cleaning.
A dirty humidifier can end up with mold and bacteria inside, and thus can promote the growth of mold and bacteria in the air when it releases dirty mist. This can make your little one sick.
So, it's vital to clean and dry your humidifier daily, based on the instructions that came with the humidifier.
You'll also need to replace the water in the humidifier daily, and remove the water when you aren't using it.
This will keep bacteria and mold from growing.
Learn more about choosing and cleaning a humidifier from pediatrician Dr. Sara Connolly and Bundoo:
You'll also need to monitor the humidity levels in baby's room carefully.
The ideal humidity for baby's room (or any room) is between 30% and 50%. If the humidity is consistently higher than that, it could make baby sick.
That's because very high humidity can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, mold, and dust mites -- especially harmful if your little one has an allergy or asthma.
How to measure humidity? Either pick out a cool-mist humidifier that measures the humidity level automatically, or buy a hygrometer at a hardware store (a hygrometer is like a thermometer that measures air moisture).
And like with anything that needs to plugged in, you'll need to make sure the humidifier is out of baby's reach, and that the cord is somewhere that baby can't trip over it.
A humidifier produces the most mist in the areas it is closest to, though, so you'll still want it fairly close to baby's sleeping area for the greatest benefits.
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