Why do we need humidity (moisture) in the air we breathe?
Your nose adds humidity (moisture) to the air you breathe. When you breathe in, your nose moistens, filters, and warms the air before it enters your lungs. When your child has a tracheostomy (trach) tube, the air does not go in through the nose or mouth. So it is not warm and moist.
The air we breathe is dry at some times of the year. This often happens in summer when air conditioners dry the inside air. It also happens in winter, when heaters also dry the air. When the air your child breathes is not warm and moist, this can cause dry, bloody, and thick mucus. This mucus can block your child’s airway. It might make it hard for your child to breathe through the trach tube.
How can I humidify the air my childbreathes when he has a trach?
To moisten the air your child breathes, you can provide your child with one (1) of the following humidity systems:
- Humidified air through a trach collar or mask, like the child in the picture below right, or
- A heat moisture exchanger (HME) or a humid-vent. This is also called an artificial nose. The child in the picture below left is wearing a heat moisture exchanger (HME).
When should my child wear his trach humidity system?
It is important to use the trach humidity system during naps or at night whenyour child is asleep. This lowers the chance of mucus drying out and blocking the tube.
During the day, your child might be able to go without the humidity system sometimes. If he does, be sure to watch for mucus that is dry or has blood in it. You can tell if mucus has blood in it because it might look pink or have red or brown streaks. You can tell if mucus is dry because it is hard to suction out.
If the mucus is dry or has blood in it, your child should put on the humidity system. Ask your child’s doctoror nurse how often your child should wear the humidity system.
Can I use a home humidifier to moisten the air my child breathes?
We do not recommend home humidifiers if your child’s treatment can cause low blood counts. Humidifiers can put germs like fungus and bacteria in the air. This might give your child an infection. To keep your child safe,only use devices your child’s care team suggests.
If you have questions or concerns about the trach humidity system, talk to your child’s clinical nurse specialist. A nursing coordinator is always here to answer your questions and address your concerns. Call 901-595-3300 and ask for the nursing coordinator. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 when the call connects.
This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.
St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).
ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).
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