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Pollution is a reality we all live with, without paying too much attention to how it affects us. We take it as a part and parcel of modern living, something life in a city comes with. But when the situation becomes so dangerous that the government needs to shut schools down and people have to wear masks, you know it is time to be warned. The smog that has enveloped Delhi in the last few days could be affecting our kids dangerously, thus making these precautions mandatory!
As per general statistics, young children on an average suffer up to 6 respiratory infections per year. Children till 5 years of age may get more respiratory problems than the older children, and they may also fall more ill. Hence, young children need to be supervised more closely. Schools and playgrounds are the most common places from where your child can contract these infections. As kids start attending schools, activity classes or day care centres, we see a surge in respiratory problems. Sometimes, one infection is combined with another which aggravates the problem. While some of these infections may be caused by viruses, one thing is certain: pollution makes everything worse.
The latest Air Quality Index measured in Delhi is Hazardous with a capital H. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the Air Quality Index touched the figure of 494 last week, which comes under the ‘severe’ category. Anand Vihar, a locality in the capital, is the worst affected neighbourhood of the lot. It is suspected that this sudden surge is due to Diwali crackers and festivties. There are dense clouds of smog enveloping the city and residents have resorted to wearing masks to avoid breathing in the toxic air. Needless to say, the damage that this may be inflicting on the sensitive bodies of children is immense!
When pollution reaches levels as horrifying as these, it is a matter of grave concern. It can trigger a spate of respiratory concerns in children that may continue throughout their life. Be warned of the danger signs that kids exhibit and know how to treat them.
Typical Symptoms of Respiratory Problems in Children
1. Common Cold
Nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, mild fever
Fever, body ache, headache, cough, sore throat, fatigue and weakness, stomachache or vomiting
Dry cough, hoarseness, stridor (noisy, laboured breathing)
Nasal congestion, facial pain/headache, mild fever, cough, fatigue
Cough, fever, rapid heartbeat, short rapid breathing, nasal flaring
fever, cough, rapid breathing, decreased activity, loss of appetite
cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in chest
How to Prevent Respiratory Problems in Your Child
The best method to prevent these infections is by maintaining a good hygiene. Start following these rules at home if you don’t do so already:
- Insist that your child washes his hands frequently, especially after coming back from outside, using the washroom and before/after eating. Psst, a yummy smelling handwash will certainly help!
- Try and keep your kids indoors till the levels of pollution come down to acceptable levels. To prevent him from missing out on studies, you can discuss practices followed in China with his school and extra classes officials. In China, teachers use online tools to take classes for students during particularly smoggy days
- Discard used tissues/napkins immediately after use
- While venturing outdoors, make sure the kids wear a medically-approved mask that covers the nose and the mouth properly. You need to wear this too as infections can transmit very easily from you to your children
- Start consuming anti-oxidant-rich foods to build immunity against pollution-triggered infections. This includes fruits and vegetables such as capsicum, broccoli, tomato and guava. These foods fight tissue degradation and hence stop damage caused by free radicals – the biggest risk of pollution. You can get a complete list of antioxidant-rich-foods here
- If your child is suffering from common cold, it’s best not to send him to school or classes as there is a risk of him spreading it to others. Common cold is highly contagious and spreads through physical contact. Keep him away from others and avoid snuggling or hugging him
- If your child has a history of respiratory problems, you also need to guard against influenza. Some vaccinations are available for this condition which you may give to your child after consulting a doctor
- Start following eco-friendly practices at home such as using plants to purify the air and adopting greener practices and lifestyles
How to Treat Respiratory Problems
If your child has contracted a severe problem, it might take longer for your child to recover. Antibiotics are not used to treat viral infections, as they hardly work on these viruses. Ensure your child gets plenty of rest, and increase his fluid intake. Make him sip warm to slightly hot water, it will give him relief from sore throat and cough. Also, inhaling steam helps clearing the nasal airways.
For bronchiolitis, there is no specific treatment. A vaporizer may be used to get some relief. For pneumonia, antibiotics are prescribed for treatment. There is no current cure for asthma. However, your physician may prescribe medicines to control asthma in your child. As the child grows, the symptoms may get better or worse.
Experts and government officials are trying their best to get in control of the situation as soon as possible. Till then, remember to be mindful of these warnings signs and don’t delay in getting treatment for any condition that is worrying you or your child. Take care!