With cold and flu season just around the bend, we’ll do everything we can to keep the littles from catching a sniffle (or, worse). Adding a humidifier to the nursery can have substantial benefits. We caught up with Crane’s Katie Sotor to give us a little humidifier 101. Here’s the scoop.

How can you tell when it’s time to set up a humidifier in the house?
If you have a new baby, it’s a good idea to begin using the humidifier as soon as he or she comes home. Newborns are obligate nasal breathers (meaning they prefer to breathe through their nose) for their first 4-5 months of life. Their tiny noses get easily congested or dry, and having a little moisture in the air thins nasal congestion, making it easier to sleep and feed. Babies’ skin is very dry, and the moisture from a humidifier can help to soothe it.

Makes sense. So when new parents go to purchase a humidifier, what should they be looking for?
You’ll want one with a mist lid that can be easily cleaned. Often times, the nozzle (where the mist is emitted) is tough to clean, or cannot be cleaned. A model that emits a cool mist is best for young children, because with a warm mist, the water boils, and could be seriously harmful if spilled. Cool mist is also the best way to treat croup.

Does it matter where in the room the humidifier is placed? How close should it be to a baby’s crib? 
Place your humidifier 3 feet off the ground and about 4-5 feet from the bed or crib using the machine’s medium setting. Place it on a waterproof, flat surface (not wood, in case of an accidental spill).

OK, let’s talk maintenance. How often does the water need to be changed? How about cleaning?
The water tank and base (of any humidifier) should be emptied daily, and disinfected with a white vinegar and water solution weekly (here’s a demo of how to clean it). Crane ultrasonic humidifiers do not require a filter to operate, so that’s one less step to worry about.

Does it make a difference what kind of water is used in a humidifier?
If you live in  area with hard water or well water, your best bet is to use distilled water—or purchase a demineralization filter—to help reduce mineral content. When the tap water is high in mineral content, the humidifier mist can emit a white dust. While this isn’t harmful, it will cling to surfaces throughout the room. Over time, hard water can seep into the motor, which may compromise the longevity of your humidifier.

So much good info. Last but not least, how often should the humidifier be run? Is it possible to overdo it? Generally, people use a humidifier while sleeping. You do have to be careful of letting a room become too humid. It is best to have the humidifier at a medium setting, and to keep the door slightly ajar. If you see condensation on the windows, choose a lower setting.