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What Kind of Humidifier Is Best for Babies With Colds?

by Sharon Perkins

When your baby's nose is stopped up with a cold and his misery is making the whole family equally miserable at night, a humidifier in his room can become your new best friend. Not all humidifiers are safe in your baby's room or beneficial for his condition, so choose carefully. The right humidifier is easy to use and clean while keeping the mucus in your baby's nose and respiratory tract thin and easier to expel.

Cool Mist or Steam?

While steam vaporizers have several advantages over cool mist units -- heating kills bacteria, for one -- the risk of burns from an overturned unit or from getting too close to the steam outweighs the benefits. Although steam might seem more soothing, by the time it hits the lower respiratory tract, it's the same temperature as the mist from the cool humidifiers, the Mayo Clinic website explains. Cool-mist humidifiers are also cheaper to run than steam units, since they don't require electricity.

Filter, Impeller or Ultrasonic?

If you're looking for a quiet unit that doesn't disturb your baby's sleep, look to an ultrasonic unit or one that uses an impeller; both are quieter than evaporative models. Impeller models use a high-speed rotating disc to produce a cool mist; ultrasonic units produce mist with the help of ultrasonic vibration. Evaporative units use a fan, which produces more noise, to push air through a wet wick filter.

Bacteria Busters

Bacteria can grow in water that sits in a humidifier. For this reason, you must empty it every time you turn it off and refill only before you're ready to use it again. Choose a model that's easy to empty and refill in order to increase the chance that you'll actually do it every time. Models that don't fit under your faucet can be a pain to fill, meaning you might be tempted to cut corners and leave water inside rather than emptying it. Putting a cleaning cartridge in the tank helps reduce bacteria and mold growth for up to 30 days.

Having a Humidistat

Too much moisture in the air, like too little, can cause problems for people with asthma or other respiratory disorders. Excess moisture promotes mold growth, which can aggravate allergies and lung conditions. A humidifier with a built-in humidistat helps you keep the humidity in your child's room between 30 percent to 50 percent, the recommended amount, ConsumerReports.org says. Keeping the humidity at 30 percent in the winter months and no more than 50 percent in the summer helps prevent mold growth, according to the Health Canada site.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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