Ashna Tewari, 37, a former district-level basketball player cannot think of letting her son Arjun, 12, toss a ball around with friends at school. The class 7 student has such severe asthma that he ends up staying home on days when the city’s air turns visibly hazy.
Arjun is among the hundreds of children who have been advised to avoid strenuous physical activity by doctors and parents. “I really want my son to play with his friends. It increases camaraderie and teaches teamwork, but his asthma is so advanced that I can’t take a chance. At school where it’s difficult to observe him among the many other children, it is a big no,” Tewari said.
“With the high levels of pollution we have, most kids who show asthma symptoms have already suffered irreparable damage to their lungs. The treatment doesn’t reverse the condition, it only controls symptoms and prevents from deteriorating the lung condition,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, head of pulmonary and sleep medicine at AIIMS.
Several schools across the city are getting increasing requests from parents requesting their children be excused from playing sports at school because of allergies, asthma and respiratory diseases.
“We have certainly seen an increase. Over the years, it has becomes increasingly difficult to convince children to participate in sports and the biggest reason is dust and pollution. Earlier, we wouldn’t have to spend hours picking children for school teams. There were a large number of children who would willingly play. Today, we have to pursue children to play. It is alarming,” said LV Sehgal, principal, Bal Bharati Public School.
While most children are not as critical as Arjun, schools have seen that the numbers are high and have stocked up their sick rooms with the oxygen kits, nebulisers and puffs needed to deal with medical emergencies.“According to data from the health-service provider who conducts health check-ups for our school, the number of children who have breathing troubles have increased,” said Jyoti Arora, principal, Mt Abu School, Rohini.
Coaches who train students in athletics and team sports at schools on contractual basis have also seen an overall decrease in the number of students who want to play sports.
“The number of children that enroll for coaching has certainly gone down while the number of students who complain of breathlessness has increased. I have also noticed that a lot of children have skin allergies these days,” said Arvind Singh, an athletics coach empanelled in three schools in the city.