With the long, extremely cold winters in Western New York, indoor air can become extremely dry. Not only does insufficient humidity make the air feel cooler and lead to higher thermostat settings, but it can also be responsible for itchy skin, persistent cough, sore throat, thirst, and chapped lips. Dried-out nasal passages make us more susceptible to flu and colds and lengthen recovery times. For kids with eczema, psoriasis, allergies, or asthma, both low and high humidity can aggravate symptoms. A lack of proper moisture levels also negatively impacts sleep. The ideal recommended humidity for the sleep environment falls between 40 and 60%.
Adding a whole-home humidifier to the HVAC system or a portable humidifier to your child’s room can help to make the room feel warmer and improve comfort. Be aware, however, that improper use of portable humidifiers can lead to health concerns. If the humidifier isn’t cleaned regularly and thoroughly, it can become a source of bacteria and microorganisms. Certain cleaning products that target bacteria contain volatile chemicals that can introduce dangerous aerosols. Make sure to choose a humidifier that is easy to clean. Make cleaning and filling the reservoir part of your daily routine. Filling with tap water is typically safe from contaminants. If you’re worried, consider using distilled water.
Avoid adding “humidifier disinfectants” as these have been linked to serious respiratory disease in both children and adults. Stay away from humidifiers with bright lights, especially blue lights. Our bodies consider blue light to be wakeful. Run the humidifier during the heating season. Once the weather changes and there’s more moisture in the air, you don’t need to add more. If you’re unsure whether or not to add a humidifier to your child’s bedroom, consult with your pediatrician.