What's Better in the Nursery - Baby Air Purifier or Humidifier?
She already read this article and knows the answer!
Every parent thinks their child is the most precious baby in the world, but the fact is that every child really is the most precious baby in the world. The result of this is a lot of happiness and also a boat-load of worry about how to provide the utmost safety and comfort. There are of course, differentiations in parent types - some moms are more lax, some dads are more careful - but wherever you go on the parenting-type spectrum, you'll find pretty much unanimous agreement that parents are always thinking about what's best their child. The real problem then comes down to: how do you know what's best for a baby? For example, does a baby need an air purifier in her room? Or does she need a nursery humidifier? Or wait, does she need both an air purifier and a humidifier!? Or will these small appliances possibly even harm her!!?
Does a baby need a nursery air purifier?
First, let's cover what an air purifier is. These air quality control appliances come in all shapes and sizes, from clunkers that look like a stocky R2-D2, to orb-like products that will put the rest of your home's decor to shame. While air purifier design is fun to discuss, by far the most important aspect of these devices is what they filter out of the air. According to the EPA, common indoor air pollutants will look a little something like the following:
A basset hound, one culprit behind indoor airborne particles and food missing from the dinner table.
- Particulate Matter: Dust, smoke, pollen, animal dander, and particles generated from combustion appliances such as cooking stoves, and particles associated with tiny organisms such as: dust mites, molds, bacteria, and viruses.
- Gaseous Pollutants: From combustion processes such as gas cooking stoves, vehicle exhaust, and tobacco smoke, along with building materials, furnishings, and products such as: adhesives, paints, varnishes, cleaning products, pesticides.
As you can see, many of these pollutants are common and unavoidable. For example, particulate matter like dust can be found in pretty much every household across America. Unfortunately, the effects of breathing this stuff can include irritated sinuses, dizziness, nausea, and more.
This is where air purifiers come to the rescue. Certain air purifiers are effective at removing many tiny particles from the air, such as those mentioned above. And certain purifiers are effective at removing gaseous airborne pollutants, such as those mentioned above. And certain ones are effective at removing both. Picking that certain one depends on what you've got going on in your house. The average homeowner with young children will want to focus primarily on removing dust, pet dander, and other particulate irritants from the air. Then, if, for example, you have a unique situation where your home was recently renovated, you might want to look for a purifier that also removes gaseous pollutants.
What's the magic phrase? HEPA Filter
Chances are you've heard the phrase HEPA filter thrown around by more than a few acquaintances who don't know really know what it means. In fact, HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance. Basically, a HEPA air filter is like a cop that pulls over a bunch of nasty particles making trouble in the air, arrests and handcuffs them, and puts them in prison so they can't get out and circulate into the room again. HEPA filters are especially great at catching super super super tiny particles, with even decent models today capable of removing at least 99.97% of airborne particles down to 0.3 micrometers in diameter.
Parents concerned about airborne irritants should consider a portable air purifier with both a pre-filter and a HEPA filter. Pre-filters are fairly standard and simply work to catch medium to larger airborne particles. Any of the smaller particles that evade the pre-filter get stuck on the HEPA filter. As such, these types of products are helpful for removing dust, pollen, dust mites, animal dander, and more from rooms such as nurseries. Removing these smaller airborne allergens may help reduce related health problems like itchy noses, scratchy throats, and headaches. Homeowners with pets would especially benefit from using a HEPA air purifier.
As mentioned above, HEPA filters can't remove gassy pollutants and odors. If you recently fixed up your house , or there's a pervasive odor that's troubling your child's ability to sleep soundly, or there's a smoker in the home, consider getting an air purifier that includes a pre-filter, a HEPA filter, and an activated carbon filter. The activated carbon works like a sponge to suck up and hold onto the gassy, stinky molecules and to keep them from escaping into the air again, baby farts included.
All of this being said, it's important to note that any type of air purifier is not an end-all-be-all solution to allergen control for your baby, since they don't remove all particles from indoor areas. For optimal air contaminant control in nursery, you should combine air purifier usage with regular vacuuming, dusting, and cutting back on dust-collecting clutter like blanket piles. Always ensure that the purifier is running immediately after cleaning, to catch the uprooted particles. Portable air purifiers make this easy because you can roll them around from room to room.
Also make sure that you have proper, natural ventilation into the baby's nursery. Whenever possible, don't forget to open the window and let in fresh, clean air, though it needs to be closed again when the air purifier is in use. Combining all of these air quality control solutions, and remembering that an air purifier is just one element in the clean home air equation, can only result in a positive effect on what your baby breathes in her nursery.
What's a humidifier used for in the baby's room?
While air purifiers work to make indoor air spic and span, they do absolutely nothing to help out with the moisture level in rooms. This is fine if the humidity in your home is just right. It's not fine if the humidity in your home is too low due to natural decreases in water vapor levels in the air during the winter. On the bright side, air purifiers don't remove any moisture from the air (save for a few models specifically designed for this purpose), so they can't accidentally make a dry situation dryer. To counteract the effects of low humidity, you would instead need a humidifier to add moisture to your nursery's air.
Low humidity can create health problems similar to those caused by airborne particles, such as irritating your child's eyes, throat, and lungs, and causing headaches, sickness and more. If you're troubled by the air quality in the your home, including the baby's nursery, but don't know the cause, it's important to first figure out whether the problem is particle/pollutant or moisture-related. The easiest and cheapest solution is to purchase a digital hygrometer, which is a device that checks the air's humidity level. The University of Rochester Medical Center advises to keep a home's humidity level between 30% to 50%. If your brand new humidistat shows anything below this, purchase a humidifier right away and see if your child's health symptoms improve at all. If there's still an issue, you may also need to purchase an air purifier.
Just like air purifiers, there are different types of humidifiers. The four main ones you'll encounter are listed below:
- Warm Mist Humidifier - Warm steam from boiling water is released into the room.
- Evaporative Humidifier (Cool mist) - A fan blows through a water-soaked wick, and droplets are expelled into the room.
- Impeller Humidifier (Cool mist) - Diffuser breaks water into tiny droplets and expelled as a cool mist into the room.
- Ultrasonic Humidifier (Warm or cool mist) - Vibrating metal diaphragm propels fine water droplet mist into the room.
As you can see, the purpose of these is to add just the right amount of moisture to the air, and they can all do that. However, an ultrasonic humidifier is generally the best option for a nursery, because it runs almost completely silently and will lull even the most determined nightowls to sleep. Whereas an evaporative humidifier, for example, uses a fan, the ultrasonic humidifier relies on a vibration well beyond the human hearing range.
Be aware that a humidifier can do more harm than good if it's not cleaned regularly, with maintenance differing based on type. For example, since the wicks on evaporative humidifiers retain moisture for long periods of time, they're prone to mold and fungus, and have to be changed or rinsed regularly. Or for example, when tap water is used in ultrasonic humidifiers, it can leave behind a white dust residue all over the room where the expelled droplets evaporate. However, this can be prevented by using distilled water, or buy purchasing an ultrasonic humidifier that comes with an internal demineralization cartridge, such as the Luma Comfort HC12W and the Luma Comfort HC12B.
So can you use both a baby air purifier and a humidifier?
Sure. Using both together won't cause any problems: an air purifier will have no effect on the humidifier, and vice versa. They can be used in the same room to clean the air and to also add moisture to the nursery air. What's most important to remember is properly take care of both small appliances. The filters on HEPA air purifiers can last anywhere from six months to five years, and must be changed to ensure that the air is actually being filtered. And humidifiers must be cleaned regularly to prevent mold and bacteria build-up. Since humidifiers rely on standing reserves of water, the water needs to be changed frequently, and the inside wiped down to avoid funky colonies of bacteria taking up residence.
You should ultimately make your selection based on what air quality problem you're experiencing in your home. Are you most concerned about reducing airborne irritants for your sensitive newborn? Then an air purifier is the right fit for you. Or are you most concerned with the air being too dry in the nursery? Then a humidifier is right for you. Or are you concerned about dryness and airborne irritants? Then both a humidifier and an air purifier are the right choices. After this, you can begin looking at the specifics, such as how big of a room can the humidifier provide moisture to, or, how noisy is the air purifier when it's being used, and make your decision based on your family's needs.