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Humidifiers can make your little ones more comfortable

Consumer Reports News: December 22, 2011 12:23 PM

Winter months in cold climates are a time of dry skin and itchy eyes as we retreat into the dry air of our heated homes. For babies and young children, especially those who are too young to know how to blow their nose, dry indoor air may make them feel even more uncomfortable. Having a good humidifier can provide some relief.

“With humidifiers, I tend to recommend cool mist as opposed to warm mist,” said Dr. Amy Guiot , a pediatric hospitalist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “We’re concerned about accidental burns. Cool mist thins the mucus and makes everything flow out.” The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that cool mist humidifiers are the safest choice.

What you need to pay close attention to is cleaning and maintaining the humidifier you ultimately choose. “Molds can happen with both (warm mist and cool mist),” said Dr. Guiot. “If the water sits there, mold will grow. You have to change water frequently and clean as directed.”

Dr. Robin Deterding, a co-author of “Inhalational Lung Injury Associated with Humidifier ‘White Dust,’” a case report that was published earlier this year in Pediatrics, said, “Most people don’t read the directions and use tap water. I recommend distilled water.” The problem is that some humidifiers end up spewing mineral particles into the air, which can potentially lead to health problems. Dr. Deterding urges parents to clean humidifiers daily.

Remember, too, that there can be too much of a good thing, and you don’t want to overdo using the humidifier. “You don’t want to run it all the time, every day—dust mites like humidity,” said Dr. Guiot. “You don’t want to be walking into a jungle.”

See our buying advice and Ratings (available to subscribers) for humidifiers and a wide range of other products for babies and kids.

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Merri Rosenberg

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