COVID-19: How to keep your toddlers healthy with changing climate

Updated: May 16, 2020 12:18 PM

Parents must make note that infants and children up to four years of age are at the highest risk.

childcare, health care, heat exhaustion, dehydration, changing climate, climate related infections in children, asthma in children, fever in children, allergies in children, cold and coughs in children, sunburn, dengue fever in childreParents must make note that infants and children up to four years of age are at the highest risk. (File photo:IE)

COVID-19: The hazardous impacts of a fluctuating climate, from more extreme weather events to variations in seasonal patterns, definitely tend to have undesirable consequences on our health. Children are more susceptible to the perils allied with the weather and an altering climate due to numerous factors like a compromised and immature body immunity, children tend to spend more time outdoors as compared to adults and most importantly they tend to have diverse physiology and body metabolism rate than adults. The sudden weather change from winters to summers and from summers to rains, though is revelled by kids, can trigger various health issues like seasonal flues, asthma, and unwanted allergies, cold and coughs, heat strokes, sun-burn risk, dehydration, heat exhaustion and rain-related illness like diarrhoea, malaria, and dengue to name a few. Parents and caregivers can facilitate in mitigating jeopardies related to the changing climate and make the most of the benefits by comprehending and preparing their children for weather and climate-related risks.

Tips for parents to protect child’s health

Drawing a safety net against winter allergies: A sudden transition from a hot to warm climate tends to surge the length and intensity of the pollen season, which has the capability of increasing the episodes of allergies and asthma in the atmosphere. Warmer temperatures tend to encourage the generation of more ground-level ozone, which is a known cause for asthma attacks in children. While asthma may be linked with hereditary factors, the fluctuating environment, and augmented air pollution could also be contributing factors to the growth of the disease in toddlers. Other common allergens that can lead to winter allergies in kids are dust mites and moulds which is a kind of fungus that flourishes in moist and sultry areas such as basements and bathrooms.

When exposed to air, these spores have the capability to activate allergy symptoms. In order to safeguard kids from these allergies, parents must make it a point to use the vacuum cleaner and clean the carpets at least once or twice a week when the temperatures begin to drop. You should be dusting your house more often during winters. Keep the curtains and shades free of dust and refrain from using feather pillows. Ensure proper ventilation and sunshine to avoid mould growth and alongside refrain your kids from keeping close contact with animals and pets. Keeping blankets and quilts under the sun helps to get rid of allergens, thus decreasing the chances of falling trap to unwanted allergies. Don’t curtain your kids from spending time outsides, instead aim for early mornings or evening hours, when the levels of air and pollen are likely to be lower.

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In spite of these precautionary measures taken at home in case your toddler seems to be under the weather parents must consider seeking appropriate medical help. For common nasal allergies, your pediatrician may prescribe you antihistaminics drugs, for persistent or very recurrent nasal allergies, sometimes anti-allergic or steroids-containing nasal sprays may be suggested to be used. For children with asthma, parents must ensure they make use of inhalers as per their doctor’s advice and seek medical advice at the earliest, in case of any trouble.

Preventing extreme heat: The scorching heat of the sun continues to mount and climate forecasts indicate that these events will be more recurrent and intense in the coming decades. It is a known fact that children fail to acclimatise to heat as competently as adults do. Our bodies tend to create a lot of heat. Generally, they are cooled through perspiration and by the heat that radiates through the skin. But during the summer season due to the high level of humidity, this natural cooling system may start to fail, allowing the heat in the body to increase at hazardous levels. This can further lead to heat illness, such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and heat cramps. These heat-related ailments in children typically occur when the body’s temperature control system tends to get burdened.

Parents must make note that infants and children up to four years of age are at the highest risk. These illnesses are a result of the child’s body losing salt and fluids during the summer season. These condensed levels of salt are probable to cause the muscles to cramp.

If your kids fail to drink a sufficient amount of fluids, they are bound to be at a greater risk for heat cramps. Allow your kids to have plenty of rest and enough fluids to ease their discomfort. Ensure they are constantly consuming plenty of water or fluids that comprise of salt and sugar, such as energy drinks and natural lime water. You must always consider covering up your child’s skin to help prevent the harmful UV rays. Make use of sunscreen with at least SPF (sun protection factor) 15 and UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) protection every time your child steps outside. Help them stay cool through showers and baths and make infants and children dress up in loose, lightweight, and light-coloured apparels to get the body temperature under control.

Developing an outdoor connection: Allowing your little munchkins to connect to the outdoors is also vital when it comes to climatic changes. It has been proved that the time spent outdoors, particularly at a primary age, can diminish childhood anxiety while firming confidence, imagination, and upholding physical health. Limiting them within the confines of the home may not make them resilient enough to withstand the climatic fluctuations, hence sometimes it is important that kids must step out and experience the warm climate, the hot summer sun, and the raindrops falling on their forehead. This will help in upholding their immunity, thus making them invulnerable to various ailments.

The sudden transition from hot weather to the cooling showers: The rainy season brings along with it the most common insect-spread ailments that are spread by fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. These infections comprise malaria and dengue fever. As the climate turns warmer, these bugs have the capability of expanding their ranges, possibly exposing more people to falling trap to infections. Children are more prone to insect bites because of their immunocompromised state, poor hygiene levels and also because they generally spend more time playing outdoors as compared to adults. To safeguard kids from insect spread ailments parents must prioritize healthy habits in kids like washing hands for about 20 seconds with a disinfectant after getting home, covering up the bare skin when spending time outdoors, and making use of insect repellents to protect your kids from bites.

Kid-friendly resources: Parents must consider talking with their kids about their opinions on climate alteration. As responsible guardians, you must strive to fortify the child’s association with the environment in a way that when the right time comes, he will have already developed a passion and gratitude for nature. If your little munchkin does ask you about global warming, you must retort to them with a short, supportive answer. Explain to them that adults are working very hard to resolve the ecological issue along with the burden to safeguard the environment being left to the future generation, thus encouraging them to take lead once they grow up.

There is no doubt on the fact that climate-related tragedies are mounting, and carbon emissions are rising. Parents today are facing an unprecedented trial of raising children somehow preparing them for an environmental emergency that may last their lifetimes. To raise climate-resilient kids, parents must brace them for the direct physical impacts that will be triggered by the climate fluctuation on their well-being and can teach children effective ways to lessen its worsening impacts.

The columnist is Founder & Director at Docterz. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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