Humidifiers / Vaporizers

Babies need all the help they can get when they are suffering from respiratory or nasal congestion and can't breathe. A humidifier or vaporizer in the nursery can help your baby's breathing by moisturizing the air in the room.

Moist air helps keep the mucus in your baby's nose wet. This prevents stuffiness, making it easier for your baby to breathe. Installing a humidifier in your baby's room is practically a rite of passage -- a ritual that will result in an understanding grimace from other parents. Every parent eventually places a humidifier or vaporizer in their baby's room and every parent asks the question "should I use a humidifier or vaporizer?"

Both humidifiers and vaporizers are equally effective at putting moisture into the air. A humidifier sends cool mist into the air; a vaporizer heats the water and sends warm mist into the air and can be scented with menthol.

Most pediatricians recommend cool-mist humidifiers because some people find warm-mist vaporizers actually increase their stuffiness. There is no danger of burns from hot water or steam in a humidifier. Humidifiers don't boil the water before they release it into the air. On one hand this makes them safer than vaporizers. But the lack of boiling creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and mold which can irritate your baby's lungs if inhaled. This is particularly worrisome for children with asthma and other chronic respiratory problems.

You should fill your humidifier or vaporizer with water that has a low mineral content, either distilled or filtered water. This will prevent the minerals from building up in the machine which are then dispersed into the air. This could also irritate your baby's lungs. Vaporizers may benefit from adding a pinch of salt to the water to help them warm the water more efficiently.

To prevent a build up of bacteria, mold, or mineral, you must regularly clean your humidifier or vaporizer following the manufacturer's cleaning instructions. Most manufacturers recommend washing the inside of a humidifier or vaporizer daily. You can use soap and water, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, or a commercially prepared cleaning solution. It is also recommended to change the filter every three months. Some humidifiers and vaporizers are dishwasher safe.

Place the humidifier or vaporizer about three feet from your baby's crib. This is close enough for the mist to benefit your baby, but not so close that your baby could touch it or knock it over. Keep in mind, all humidifiers and vaporizers make noise, some more than others. Even the quietest machine will gurgle every once in a while. If your baby is sensitive to sound, you will want a quiet humidifier or vaporizer.

If you live in an area where the air is very dry during the winter, running a humidifier or vaporizer at night can help keep nasal passages from becoming dry. This is helpful even when your baby isn't sick. Using a humidifier or vaporizer with a built-in humidistat allows you to set the humidity level. When the machine reaches that humidity level, it turns off. This will prevent the nursery from becoming too humid. When a room is too humid, bacteria and mold thrive on furniture, walls, carpet, curtains, and bedding. You also don't want water condensing on the windows, pictures, or walls. Setting the humidity level at 35%-45% will moisten the air, but keep the humidity level well below mold and bacteria thresholds.

My daughter's nursery is very dry and I went through many humidifiers before I found one that was reliable and lasted longer than a year. The TrueAir 4.0 Gallon Cool Mist Humidifier puts water into the air without leaving a puddle on the floor and the cool mist can't burn my daughter. The large water tank is dishwasher safe, filter replacements are easy to find, and it just works well. It can be quite loud, but I keep it set to the lowest speed and the sound doesn't keep my daughter awake at night.
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