World Lung Day 2021: How to protect your child's lungs from damage
- Childhood is also an important time for lung development. From birth to when we are in early twenties, our lungs are still developing. Here are tips by expert to prevent lung damage in children.
Childhood is considered a golden time for most of us. From learning and growing each day to enjoying time with the peers without significant responsibilities, childhood memories perhaps stay with us for longest. It is also the time when one is growing physically and mentally at a rapid pace. From cognitive, social and emotional skills to physical growth, a lot of things are at a development stage.
Childhood is also an important time for lung development. From birth to when we are in early twenties, our lungs are still developing. It is during our early years that we lay foundation for healthy lungs and if babies or children are exposed to second hand smoke and pollutants at this tender age, they are at risk of early heart disease as adults due to poorly functioning and stiffer blood vessels.
Children who are exposed to passive smoking can develop cardiovascular troubles apart from respiratory and other health issues, said a study.
"At birth the baby has 20-50 million air sacs. But they are still not fully developed. The child’s lung volume increases a lot in the first two years of life, owing to the fast growth in the number of air sacs in their lungs. By the time the child is three, their lungs look like a mini version of adult lungs. Adult lungs have around 300 million air sacs. Did you know that your lungs are still in the process of maturing even in your early twenties!" says Dr Shalini Joshi, Senior Consultant - Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru.
This is the reason early smokers are at severe risk of lung damage, breathing issue and respiratory illnesses.
"Cigarette smoking during childhood and adolescence can adversely affect lung growth and function, cause breathing issues, and increase the severity of respiratory illnesses leading to decreased physical fitness. People who start smoking at an early age are more likely to develop a severe addiction to nicotine than those who start at a later age. Young people watch celebrities smoking in the movies and consuming gutka (chewing tobacco) as part of ad campaigns. These teens are more likely to start smoking themselves. It is normal for your lung function to decline gradually as you go beyond the age of 35," adds Dr Joshi.
Dr. Joshi also suggests measures that parents can take to prevent lung damage in children:
1. Avoid smoking during pregnancy.
2. Make sure your child does not breathe in smoke as second-hand smoking at home. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Cigarette smoke contains free radicals and other oxidants in abundance.
3. Create a "no smoking zone" around your child.
4. Avoid busy roads and junctions and being stuck in traffic where air pollution can quickly build up.
5. Beware of indoor air pollution as well. Avoid use of air fresheners, disinfectant aerosols, incense sticks and mosquito repellent chemicals as much as possible.
6. Do regular exercise to keep your lungs healthy. Playing outside with friends is excellent for your child’s lungs and their physical, social, emotional, and mental development.
"If you notice any sudden difficulties in breathing, chronic cough, mucus production, wheezing, coughing up blood or chest pain talk to your doctor right away. It is important to pay attention to these symptoms as they could be the first signs of lung disease, including COPD, asthma, and lung cancer and not the normal process of aging," says Dr Joshi.