As the air quality is deteriorating day by day, it has become rather impossible to stay healthy and go without experiencing bouts of sickness for more than a couple of months. Air pollution is ruining our health, but its ill effects are more pronounced on children, as their lungs are still in a developing stage (as is their immunity). If you are a parent, among various concerns that you may have, one must be the effects of air pollution on your child’s health. We get your concern, and this is why we suggest that you read this article to understand how air pollution affects children and how you can do your best to raise your little one in a cleaner and safer environment.
Reasons Why Children are More Susceptible to the Effects of Air Pollution Than Adults
Kids are at a greater risk of developing health problems because of poor air quality. Here’s what you need to know so that you can find solutions to keep your child healthy and protected.
Children tend to breathe more rapidly, as compared to adults. This means that they can inhale or breathe in air pollutants at a faster rate than adults. These pollutants may stay in their lungs and affect not just their lung health but their overall health as well.
The lungs of a child are not well-formed at birth, and may not develop fully until he turns 6 years of age. Toddlers or kids living in polluted cities may inhale more environmental toxins and other air pollutants, which may get trapped in their lungs for a longer duration. This may affect their respiratory health and lead to other medical problems.
Another reason why children are more susceptible to developing health issues because of air pollution is that they are more exposed to toxic substances. Kids often spend time outdoors, playing and running around in playgrounds and parks, which might not always be well-maintained. The dirt and dust outside may expose them to toxic substances, thus affecting their health.
Which Air Pollutants Have Maximum Impact on Kids’ Health?
The air your child breathes in is not really conducive to his health, you already know that. But do you know the major air pollutants that impact your child’s health? Read on to find out!
1. Nitrogen Oxide
Nitrogen oxide affects lung function by causing inflammation and irritation. Long term exposure to nitrogen oxide is known to cause respiratory problems. It also affects the immune system, which may increase the occurrence of lung problems.
2. Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide, when inhaled enters the bloodstream and mixes with the haemoglobin very quickly, and forms carboxyhaemoglobin. And carboxyhaemoglobin can be detrimental to a child’s health as it may restrict the flow of oxygen in his body.
Ozone is a powerful oxidant which can affect the airways and trigger various health problems such as throat irritation, chest pain, coughing, etc. Short-term exposure to this pollutant may give rise to the problems related to the respiratory tract and eye health, and long-term exposure to it may permanently affect the proper functioning of the lungs.
4. Airborne Particles
Airborne particles comprise sulfates, aerosols, carbon, and nitrate. These particles may aggravate the respiratory ailments such as asthma in a child. They may also cause other respiratory problems and reduce the airflow to the lungs of the child.
5. Diesel Emission
The microscopic carbon chemicals present in diesel being very small can easily enter the lungs and may lead to nausea, dizziness, throat problems, eye irritation and other such conditions in children.
6. Sulphur Dioxide
Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas produced from the burning of fossil fuels and smelting of mineral ores containing sulfur. This pollutant, when breathed in, may restrict the airways and irritate the throat and nose and cause coughing, wheezing, and breathing issues. However, a child exposed to sulfur dioxide will be most at the risk of developing health problems if he has asthma.
Lead is released in the air during the burning of coal, oil, or waste, and is regarded as a toxic air pollutant. Once it enters the body, it may affect almost all the organs as it is distributed by the blood throughout the body and accumulated in the bones. Depending on the level of exposure, it may affect a child’s nervous system and kidneys. Lead exposure, thus can result in kidney problems, cognitive development issues, impaired motor skills, and more.
How Does Air Pollution Affect a Child’s Health and Development?
The harmful air pollutants may affect your child’s health in more ways than you can imagine. If your child is constantly exposed to air pollutants, it may affect his health in the following ways:
Excessive air pollution can hamper the growth and development of a child. It may even affect the proper functioning of the lungs.
Being exposed to environmental toxins may cause infections or injuries in your child’s lungs, which may reduce the lung capacity. These adverse effects may not only be a childhood phenomenon and may affect your child’s health in adulthood too.
Being exposed to polluted air on a regular basis may aggravate health conditions such as cystic fibrosis or asthma in children.
The various air pollutants, besides affecting the respiratory system, affect the nervous system as well. Long-term exposure to air pollutants such as lead can stunt the cognitive development of a child.
Air pollution may impact the overall health of a child because medical conditions, food, water, air pollution, and other such problem-causing-factors are interlinked and together they may deteriorate the overall health of a child.
Ways to Lower the Impact of Air Pollution on a Child’s Health
Finding a one-stop solution to reduce air pollution is not possible, not now, at least. But you can find ways to protect your child from the harmful effects of air pollution. Here’s how you can help lower the impact of air pollution on your child’s health, and keep him safe and healthy.
Make sure that your child’s diet is wholesome and healthy, because a rich and nutritious diet can ensure good health and lower the risk of developing infections and severe health conditions.
Make it a point that your child engages in some kind of physical activity daily. Any form of physical activity will improve your child’s lung health and immune system, and help in maintaining a good cardiovascular system, which will give him the strength to combat health problems. And while he is at it, ensure that he is enjoying that activity in green or open spaces because exposure to fresh air will do good to his health.
If you feel like the air quality in your house is poor, use air purifiers so that the impurities and toxic elements present in the air are eliminated.
If your child falls sick constantly, consult a doctor and make sure he takes his medicines on time.
While taking your child outdoors, avoid peak hours as the air quality will be particularly poor during that time. The ideal time for outdoor play or park visits is early morning.
You can also do your bit to reduce the pollution by engaging in some healthy habits like carpooling, using public transport, cycling or walking to nearby places.
Air pollution is a major concern today and it is steadily worsening. You might not be able to tackle the problem entirely on your own but you can certainly take measures to protect your family from the harmful effects of air pollution. You could also do your bit and practice and educate others to collectively help fight air pollution! This way, you are ensuring that you’ve made a difference to your child’s future, and which parent doesn’t want that?
Also Read: Pollution Facts for Children