By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director
Humidifiers are a popular tool to help parents treat problems ranging from dry skin and cracked lips to stuffy noses and a nagging cough. But if they’re not used properly, humidifiers can harbor mold and bacteria, which can trigger allergies and asthma in kids, or even make them sick.
If your child has allergies or asthma, talk to your doctor before using a humidifier. And read these simple precautions to keep your family safe and healthy.
Watch indoor humidity
Mold thrives in warm and damp rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens, but can grow in any over-humidified space. Keep your child’s bedroom mold-free by monitoring the humidity level using a hygrometer, available at hardware stores, or a humidifier with a built-in humidistat. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend no more than 50 percent humidity indoors.
Humidity levels change throughout the day and depending on the weather, so test often and at varying times. In many parts of the country, humidity runs highest during summer months.
Clean the humidifier frequently and thoroughly
Mold and bacteria grow easily in dirty water left to sit n the humidifier’s reservoir. To keep it clean, empty the tank daily and wipe it dry before refilling with fresh water. Use a three-percent hydrogen peroxide solution, available at drug stores, to clean your humidifier every three days, then rinse after cleaning. Hydrogen peroxide is a safe and low-cost option for killing bacteria and mold throughout your home, and also less noxious than bleach.
Always unplug the device before cleaning or refilling. If the area around your humidifier gets wet or damp, move the unit or turn it down. Thoroughly clean the device before and after storing it.
Use water with low mineral content
Minerals from tap water can build up in your humidifier and cause bacteria to grow. Use distilled or demineralized water instead. Remove any deposits or film you see while cleaning.
Install new filters
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for installing new filters, but change them more frequently than advised if yours get dirty quickly.
Consider humidifier alternatives
Try resting metal pans filled with water on a wood stove, drying clothes on indoor racks and showering with the bathroom door open – all ways to raise the humidity level of your home.
To treat dry skin, use healthy lotions and lip balms or make them yourself. Here are four ways to protect your child’s skin from dry weather.
Drink plenty of water and eat hydrating foods such as fruits and vegetables. When family favorites are out of season, buy frozen options.