If you are expecting a baby this coming winter, it's important that you understand how your home's heating system can affect the health of your precious new family member. Here are 3 main concerns and what you can do to prevent serious health risks, some of which could effect your baby for life.
Dry Air—Infantile Eczema
Winter air is dry because there's very little humidity during the colder months. When you turn the heat on in your home, the little moisture that is in the air can easily evaporate. This can cause the air inside your home to be dry. Dry, warm air causes moisture to evaporate from your skin, which can be problematic for delicate, newborn skin. Dry skin in a newborn can lead to infantile eczema, which is an itchy, red rash that typically develops on the cheeks.
It's important to make sure your baby does not scratch and rub at infantile eczema. This is because research shows that there is a correlation between infantile eczema and the onset of asthma when they are older. The name for this progression of allergic reactions is called the atopic march. To reduce your baby's risk, use a humidifier to combat dry air in your home during the winter. Some heating systems and furnaces can be retrofitted with humidifiers that automatically turn on when the heated air is forced into the home through the duct work.
Poor Indoor Air Quality—Asthma
During the winter, many people keep the windows and doors closed to keep the heat from the furnace inside the house. Some people winterize their homes to prevent cold drafts and escaping heat by sealing all the cracks they can find. However, sealing a home tight like this can trap allergens inside. Chemicals that are used to clean the home can also become trapped. These allergens and chemicals can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems.
Your home's heating system could be trapping this air and recirculating it throughout your home through the entire season. It's important to clean the ducts and heating system before the cold months of winter set in and before your baby is taken home. Another way to combat poor air quality in your home is to install a HEPA filter directly to the furnace and/or heating ducts. The important thing to remember about HEPA filters is that they will need to be changed according to the manufacturer's directions in order for the air filtration system to be effective.
Incomplete Combustion—Carbon Monoxide
With the use of fuel-operated furnaces and appliances comes a concern of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is dangerous for babies because their lungs are tiny and, therefore, they can develop symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning faster. A baby with carbon monoxide poisoning can have serious health problems, some of which can lead to death.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is the result of incomplete combustion, which can happen when a furnace isn't functioning properly and/or the thermostat that regulates the furnace malfunctions. CO is colorless, odorless, and undetectable. For this reason, install CO detectors near the combustion chamber of the furnace and near bedrooms in your home, especially the baby's nursery. Also, if you have a gas-operated water heater or stove, install CO detectors near those appliances as well.
If you already have CO detectors but you aren't sure that they work properly, ask a furnace contractor to test them for you. A furnace contractor will bring a professional-grade carbon monoxide detector into your home to take a reading of the amount of CO that may be in your home. If any is found, the contractor will need to inspect the furnace to make sure it is in good working condition.
Contact a company like Kohl Heating & Air Conditioning for more information.