You may use your home's fireplace for simple enjoyment or ambiance, or you may have a wood or coal burning stove to provide the majority of your home's heat. Either way, you need to be sure that the use of a home fire is safe for your baby. Home fires can be safe for children, but you do need to be absolutely sure that fireplaces and stoves are installed correctly and monitored and maintained appropriately. You must take certain necessary precautions so you do not negatively affect your baby's health.
Carbon monoxide builds up in the smoke produced by home fires, and when high levels become contained in an enclosed space, it can cause poisoning and even death. Always have your home fire burning system installed and maintained by a professional with appropriate maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer. If you experience symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadness or nausea, take yourself and your baby out of the house immediately and seek medical attention. Install carbon monoxide detectors in several locations in your home, including near the home fire and near your baby's sleeping space. Change the batteries twice yearly at the daylight savings time change. If the alarm should go off, take your baby out of the house immediately and call 911 for help.
Breathing smoke from home fires can affect babies differently, particularly if they are already susceptible to asthma or allergies. Likewise, the amount of smoke produced by a home fire will affect any chance of your child developing respiratory allergies. Researchers affiliated with the Yale University School of Medicine and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry have found in their study entitled, "Infant Respiratory Symptoms Associated with Indoor Heat Sources," that home fires do generally increase the likelihood that children will suffer from cough or wheezing during the months of the year that home fires are in use. However, fireplace use is not highly associated with respiratory illness in infants because they tend to be used less frequently, while wood stove use has an increased incidence of cough and respiratory illness in children.
The most important consideration when using a home fire for enjoyment or to heat your home is that it is installed and maintained correctly, specifically when it comes to proper ventilation. Ventilating your fireplace or stove correctly ensures that most of the smoke and other fumes that could cause injury to your child are sent outdoors, not being trapped inside your home with your baby. Likewise, keep the danger to your child to a minimum by only burning the correct fuel in your fireplace or stove and by following the ventilation and flue instructions as specified by the manufacturer to avoid leaking contaminants into your indoor environment.
Outdoor Air Pollution
Once you've secured your home fire to be safe for your baby indoors, you may turn your attention to a home fire's effect on outdoor air pollution and its effect on your baby's breathing. Fireplaces and wood burning stoves do contribute to outdoor air pollution, which in turn contributes to the pollution of air that your child must breathe on a daily basis. However, it is likely more helpful and necessary to lessen other major sources of air pollution, such as diesel and car fumes and industrial air pollution, than it is to be overly concerned about smaller contributors like your home fire. Offset air pollution from your fireplace or stove by carpooling or taking the bus, and find out what standards exist for industrial air pollution near your home.