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Are Humidifiers Safe For Newborns? A Look At The Science

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I don't know about you, but I live with forced air heat. In the winter, my house is dry as a bone, and I'm not the only one feeling it. My kids notice it even more than I do. My littles are prone to nosebleeds and dry skin, and it started when they were just born. My oldest would get the driest skin and eczema rashes all over his little baby body, and I used a humidifier to keep the dryness in check. But was that OK? Are humidifiers safe for newborns?

There isn't a real consensus in the scientific journals or amongst pediatricians as to the safety and efficacy of the everyday use of humidifiers. However, according to Children's Hospital Colorado, there is one type of humidifier that you can use safely and easily in your home with your newborn, and that is the evaporative style humidifier. This style of humidifier is found not to spew bacteria and minerals into the air, minimizing the breathing risks posed by their ultrasonic cool mist counterparts. Although you will need to frequently replace the filter on these machines, as those are what keep the moisture in the air sediment and bacteria free.

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Fortunately, these humidifiers aren't expensive and don't need to be run in the room with your baby. Instead, these bad boys are placed in the main room of your home and humidify the entire area. They even have models that can be attached to your forced air heating system with the same filters that the portable units have installed. This way, there's no danger of burns or the like as there are with steam vaporizers. Also, Children's Hospital Colorado warned against the use of essential oils in vaporizers around your children, especially your newborn, because their little lungs aren't ready to inhale all of that, and the safety is simply not tested, even if that woman you went to high school with tells you that her secret blend of ylang ylang and eye of newt will definitely cure little August's cold. It's not worth the risk.

It's important to note that while these fancier humidifiers aren't spraying mold and bacteria into the air, if you're over humidifying the air in your home, mold can and will grow on surfaces, posing a potential health hazard for everyone, not just your newborn, according to Mold Blogger. The key is to keep the humidity below 50 percent, and make sure that no moisture is collecting on walls or in corners.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended the use of humidifiers over the use of cold medications if your child has a cold. However, the organization noted that they must be kept clean and running freely of mineral deposits if you have an ultrasonic humidifier. The Mayo Clinic suggested that while warm mist humidifiers tend not to deposit sediment into lungs via their steam, they are more likely to cause burns, making them problematic for use around small children. The water in the tanks are also hot, so it's not just the burning steam, but also the boiling water inside that poses a risk.

So, are humidifiers safe for newborns? Provided they're used with the utmost caution and concern, they're given proper maintenance with filters changed frequently, and away from any area that could be considered dangerous, yes, they're perfectly safe. However, even if you're using a humidifier, you should always make your pediatrician aware of issues like dry, sore noses and extra dry skin. While the humidifier may be helping, they can also give you more tips on how to keep your baby's skin and delicate mucosa hydrated and comfortable during these dry, overheated months spent on the inside.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

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