Can Newborns Use Vaporizers?

As a parent, preparing for a new baby can be an exciting and fun experience but may also bring up many questions about things that are safe for your baby and things that are not. While getting your baby’s room ready, you may be thinking about what to put in the room other than the regular baby necessities.

If you have thought about using a vaporizer or humidifier in your baby’s room, then you are probably wondering if it is safe and if it is safe to use with your newborn baby.

In general, vaporizers or humidifiers are safe to use in your baby’s room as long as you follow all safety guidelines when using them. Vapor rubs and medications (such as Vicks Vapors) are not safe for newborns to use as they can cause damage to your baby’s lungs, nasal canal, and throat.

When using a vaporizer or humidifier, knowing the differences between them and knowing the positives and negatives of each will help with your decision when choosing which to use in your baby’s room, without negatively affecting your baby’s health.

Difference between Vaporizer and Humidifier

Babies and young children often get sick, and they can easily get around 6 to 8 upper respiratory tract infections and colds per year. To help reduce the congestion caused by these illnesses, most parents make use of a good humidifier or vaporizer. This can help relieve congestion and other symptoms caused by these illnesses and can help your baby to sleep more easily.

Both Vaporizer and Humidifiers are used to increase the humidity levels inside a particular space or room in the house. This is to help prevent dryness and irritation that can occur in the nasal passage during winter months, which can be cold and dry. They are also used to help infants breathe more easily when they are sick or have respiratory viruses or congestion.

The main difference is that vaporizers and humidifiers make the air humid in different ways.

Humidifiers:

  • Create an extremely fine cool mist that is slowly released into the air.
  • There are multiple options for cool mist humidifiers:
    • Some with an internal wick filter fan.
    • Some have ultrasonic technology.

Vaporizers:

  • Makes steam by heating water. The steam created is then slowly released into the air.
  • They have internal technology for heating the water.
  • The water that is heated inside the machine is then released into the air as a warm, steamy mist.

Benefits and Risks

You may have heard about all the benefits of using a vaporizer or humidifier in your baby’s room and are interested in using one or the other for your baby, but have you looked into the negatives or the risks of using a humidifier or vaporizer in your baby’s room?

Let’s look at some of the benefits and risks of using a vaporizer or humidifier and find out what you can do to avoid or decrease the risks:

Benefits of using a vaporizer or humidifier:

  • They are like a natural moisturizer and can be used to relieve:
    • Dryness – dry skin, dry throat, dry cough
    • Cracked skin and lips
    • Nose congestion, irritation, and a bloody nose
    • Sinus headaches and congestion
  • Help infants with respiratory infections or viruses to breath easily
  • Help to loosen mucus and other secretions that are irritating the respiratory system or nasal passage.
  • Help relieve symptoms caused by cold, flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, and other respiratory disorders.
  • Help increase humidity and moisture in the air when heating or Air conditioning makes the air dry.
  • Help to prevent infections by keeping the nasal passage moist giving baby extra protection from airborne viruses and microbes.
  • Eases coughing and congestion symptoms that may be caused by viruses or illness.
  • Higher humidity levels help to kill viruses that may linger in the air.
  • Better sleep – Having a dry throat or nose can cause sleep difficulties. Humidifiers or vaporizers keep your throat and nose moisturized naturally which helps you and your baby sleep better

Risks of using a vaporizer or humidifier:

  • Because vaporizers use steam to increase the level of humidity indoors, if the machine is not properly cleaned or if the humidity level is higher than recommended, it can increase the mold and bacteria growth in your home. This holds the problem of putting your baby at risk for bacterial, fungal, and mold-related issues such as asthma and other bacterial illnesses.
  • The steam created by vaporizers is hot. The machine and the water in the machine are also hot. If your child gets too close or someone knocks over the machine or trips on the wire, it has the risk of burns.
  • Hot steam vaporizers cost more to use as they use more electricity to keep the water hot and produce steam.
  • Electrical short circuits from overrunning can cause a fire.
  • Over humid and warm areas and environments are a breeding ground for dust mites, mold, and bacteria.
  • If bacteria, mold, or dust mites or other microorganisms gather in the machine, it can cause these organisms to be circulated around the room. This can result in a rare condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which happens when the reservoir of the system gets contaminated with these microorganisms.
  • Dispersal of chemicals if the machine is not properly cleaned and treated.

Some tips and guidelines to reduce risks

  • Ensure you read all the user instructions carefully before using the machine.
  • Ensure the vaporizer or humidifier is placed in a safe location where it cannot be reached by your baby or any other children in the house
  • Ensure all cables and wires are out of reach and cannot be tripped on or pulled on.
  • Ensure the machine is kept on a stable, flat surface such as a desk, drawer, or table.
  • Do not keep the machine where the steam being produced can damage or wet items such as pictures, curtains, materials, clothes, or bedding.
  • If using the machine during the night, ensure you check the humidity levels frequently to prevent the humidity levels from getting too high, which can cause other health problems.
  • Watch for wet surfaces which could indicate that the humidity levels inside are too high (wet windows, condensations on items, damp surfaces)
  • Do not medication in the machine unless instructed by a pediatrician and ensure you follow the instructions carefully.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions for adding essential oils to the machine.
  • Wash the tank daily using soap to remove all the scale and film that builds up and replace the water daily. (ensure the tank is rinsed well before refilling the water)
  • Use distilled water to prevent the dispersal of bacteria, chemicals, and minerals that may be present in tap water.
  • When not in use, unplug the device to minimize the chances of short circuits and reduce the risk of fire.
  • To prevent mold, bacteria and other microorganisms ensure you air out the room during the day to prevent the environment from becoming a breeding environment.
  • Never allow the air in the room to become over wet or damp. So do not overuse the device.
  • Ensure that you keep indoor humidity levels below 50% at all times.

Types of humidifiers and vaporizers available

There are multiple different types of humidifiers and vaporizers to choose from. You can easily choose the best one for you by checking the manufacturer’s information as it will detail the size of the room, the level of humidity, and how easy it is to clean.

Here are some types of humidifiers/vaporizers that are available:

  • Steam vaporizers
  • Warm mist humidifiers
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers
  • Central humidifiers
  • Impeller humidifiers
  • Evaporators (Cool mist Humidifiers)
  • Air Purifier & Humidifier (2-in-1)

To choose which one of these would best suit your needs, you should make sure to read all the information provided by the manufacturer or online seller. If purchasing online, ensure you are buying from a reliable source.

Is it safe for babies to use medical vaporizers like Vicks vaporizers?

Vaporubs are proven to relieve upper respiratory infection symptoms. However, this only applies to children over the age of 2 years.

Vicks and other vapor rubs should not be used for children under the age of 2 years, as these products are not safe for babies. They contain ingredients that may act as irritants for babies that could exacerbate your baby’s symptoms and could cause inflammation in your baby’s nasal passage.

It is best to use a steam vaporizer or cool-steam humidifier to help relieve congestions and other cold, flu, and respiratory illness symptoms your baby may be experiencing.

Conclusion

Overall a humidifier or vaporizer is good to use with your baby as long as it is properly maintained, and you follow all the safety guidelines and instructions provided by the manufacturer. Medicated vapor-rubs should be avoided until after the age of 2 years.

Article checked by:
Dr Binu George – Consultant General Pediatric
(MBBS, FRCPCH, Dual CCST (UK), Paediatric Neurodisability)
Head Of Department, Child Development Department at
NMC Royal Hospital, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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