Air pollution can damage your child's lungs; 8 preventive measures | Health - Hindustan Times

Air pollution can damage your child's lungs; 8 important measures to save kids from toxic air

By, New Delhi
Nov 03, 2023 02:07 PM IST

Air pollution could be damaging your child's lungs, brain and heart. Here are preventive measures to safeguard their health amid deteriorating air quality.

Delhi's declining air quality owing to the weather change and incidents of stubble burning in North India has become a cause of concern for Delhi residents who face several health risks due to the toxic air. Air pollution can expose people to harmful particulate matter or particles found in the air like dust, soot, smoke, etc, and is especially harmful for vulnerable populations like children and elderly. Toxic air can affect a child's immunity making them more susceptible to health issues like pneumonia and bronchiolitis - inflammation of the bronchioles. Air pollution can even increase risk of heart disease, lung cancer and has both long term and short-term impact on people. PM 2.5 particles can penetrate deep into lung passageways and damage it. Even before being born, children can be affected by toxic air and face developmental issues.

By staying informed about the daily Air Quality Index (AQI), you and your children can plan activities accordingly and avoid spending prolonged periods outdoors when pollution levels are particularly high.(Freepik)
By staying informed about the daily Air Quality Index (AQI), you and your children can plan activities accordingly and avoid spending prolonged periods outdoors when pollution levels are particularly high.(Freepik)

Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, Director & HOD, Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad says air pollution can have detrimental effects on children's health, ranging from immediate respiratory issues to long-term developmental and cognitive problems.

Dr Jha shares how air pollution can impact your child's health:

1. Respiratory problems: Exposure to pollutants like particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can lead to asthma exacerbations, bronchitis, and reduced lung function in children.

2. Infections: Air pollution weakens the immune system, making children more susceptible to respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

3. Developmental delays: Prenatal and early-life exposure to air pollutants can cause developmental delays, affect brain development, and lead to cognitive and behavioral issues.

4. Reduced lung growth: Pollutants hinder lung growth, potentially causing permanent lung damage in children.

Dr Jagdish Kathwate, Consultant Neonatologist & Pediatrician, Motherhood Hospital, Pune says it's crucial to educate children about the harmful effects of air pollution and how they can contribute towards preventing it.

Encouraging kids to participate in activities like tree planting or organizing neighborhood clean-up drives to foster a sense of responsibility toward the environment can also be helpful.

"By staying informed about the daily Air Quality Index (AQI), you and your children can plan activities accordingly and avoid spending prolonged periods outdoors when pollution levels are particularly high. This simple step will not only reduce the exposure to harmful particles but also protect the respiratory health in the long run. Teaching them simple practices like turning off lights when not in use or using public transportation whenever possible can go a long way in reducing air pollution," says Dr Kathwate.

"Parents should prioritize creating a healthy indoor environment for their children. Many studies have shown that indoor air quality can be just as damaging as outdoor pollution. To improve indoor air quality, parents should avoid smoking inside the house and use natural cleaning products instead of harsh chemicals. Investing in air purifiers with HEPA filters can effectively remove allergens and pollutants from the air, creating a safe haven for children. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels is key to combating air pollution. Parents can set an example by choosing energy-efficient appliances for their homes and encouraging alternative modes of transportation like walking or cycling for shorter distances. Explaining to kids how switching to renewable sources of energy like solar power helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions can instill values of environmental stewardship from a young age. By involving children in discussions and decisions related to sustainability, empower them with knowledge on how they too can actively contribute towards tackling air pollution. The use of crackers during festivals and weddings leads to air pollution. So, children should try to stay away from firecrackers," adds Dr Kathwate.

Safeguarding children from air pollution

Dr Jha lists measures that can be taken to protect your children from the harmful effects of air pollution:

1. Monitor air quality: Stay informed about local air quality using reliable sources and limit outdoor activities on days with high pollution levels.

2. Indoor air quality: Improve indoor air quality with air purifiers, proper ventilation, and minimizing indoor sources of pollution, like tobacco smoke and cooking emissions.

3. Avoid high-traffic areas: Limit children's exposure to traffic-related pollution by choosing routes away from busy roads when walking or cycling.

4. Promote green spaces: Encourage outdoor activities in green, open areas where pollution levels are lower.

5. Reduce car emissions: Use public transportation, carpool, or choose eco-friendly vehicles to reduce emissions from personal vehicles.

6. Advocate for policies: Support policies and initiatives that aim to reduce air pollution, like stricter emissions standards and cleaner energy sources.

7. Prevent indoor toxins: Test homes and schools for indoor pollutants such as radon gas and lead-based paint and take steps to mitigate any issues.

8. Educate and raise awareness: Inform parents, caregivers, and educators about the dangers of air pollution and the importance of protective measures.

"Safeguarding children from air pollution involves a combination of individual actions, community efforts, and governmental policies aimed at creating cleaner and healthier environments for our youngest generation," adds Dr Jha.

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