Babies are particularly susceptible to indoor air pollution because their immune system is underdeveloped. Fortunately, there are steps that parents can take to protect their children from indoor pollutants.
The indoor environment matters a lot for quality sleep. Poor indoor air quality has been found to increase changes of both sleep apnea and contribute to issues such as headaches or sinus congestion (learn more about indoor air quality and the sleep connection here).
1. Choose the Right Bedding for your Baby
The purpose of the bedding is to not only keep your baby warm, but also to protect him/her from air contaminants such as dust particles, pollen, and mold. That's why choosing a latex foam mattress instead of a fibrous one is a good idea. Make sure to use organic covers to limit dust mites that newborns inhale when asleep. Wash these covers in chemical-and-perfume-free detergents so that the fumes associated with detergents won't cause irritation to your baby's throat. Using hot water to clean these covers is the best way to eliminate dust mites, if any.
Apart from mites, dust particles, pollen, dander, and mold are also tossed in the air when you clean the bedding daily. These air pollutants can lead to serious health problems such as asthma or even bronchitis. Hypoallergenic bedding can be used to curtail these contaminants and improve the air quality in your child's bedroom.
2. Purify the Indoor Air
One of the best ways to reduce indoor-air pollutants is to install an air purifier in your baby's room. The market is overflowing with a wide variety of air purifiers, there are even dedicated solutions out there such as the ibaby air quality alert system (ibabylabs).
. You can choose the one that fits your requirements and budget. But, make sure it consists of High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters as these are the most efficient. They can remove 99.97% particles bigger than 0.3-micron in diameter.
However, before installing an air purifier, make sure to get your indoor air quality tested. If you don't have the budget for this, you can buy an indoor air quality testing kit. You can collect the air samples and send them over to a lab for testing. You will get the results usually in a couple of weeks by email.
3. Say No to Toxic Paints
Did you know wall paints and finishes continue to emit toxic chemicals for years after application? These chemicals are nothing but a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can lead to short and long-term adverse health effects. Apart from causing health issues, VOCs also pose a serious threat to the environment. However, strict environmental regulations have prompted the development of low-VOC or zero-VOC paints. Make sure to purchase VOC-free paints so that your toddlers don't inhale toxic fumes when sleeping.
VOCs are also found in aerosol sprays, cleansers, disinfectants, moth repellents, and even air fresheners. So, the next time you go grocery shopping, stick with products marked ‘VOC-free’ or the ones containing organic ingredients.
4. Reduce Pet Dander
Pets shed dead skin cells and hair (or feathers), which may impact your baby's lungs and sinus health. Though regular grooming can help reduce the spread of dander, you can’t stop your pets from shedding altogether. Regular washing of bedding carried in and out of your toddler's room can also limit the spread of dander.
Keeping your pets out of your baby's room may not be enough because dander can travel through air. It can be found even in the areas where pets are not allowed. Fortunately, HEPA filters can trap pet dander and stop them from entering your tot's room. My advice is to install HEPA filters in your home wherever possible.
5. Manage Indoor Humidity
High humidity not only makes the air heavier and causes difficulty in breathing, it also leads to the growth of unwanted fungus, yeast, and bacteria. The level of indoor humidity may differ from place to place. However, it should always be between 30 to 50 percent, with the ideal level being about 45 percent.
Use a hygrometer to measure the humidity level in the nursery. There are two ways to decrease indoor humidity levels. You can either install exhaust fans in the rooms with higher humidity levels (although this can be expensive) or install a dehumidifier in the nursery, which is relatively cost-effective. However, you will need to clean the dehumidifier daily to keep it in excellent working condition.
Most of us are unaware of the fact that indoor air can be more polluted than outside air. Several different allergens, such as dust particles, mold, pet dander, and volatile chemicals used in conventional cleaners, can contribute to indoor air pollution. While these allergens are a potential health hazard for everyone in the house, they’re a major concern for parents as babies are more susceptible to them.
(This post was written by Erica Montes, editor for LiveWellTesting.com)