How does air pollution affect kids? 5 proven ways of raising healthier kids

Updated: November 1, 2019 1:34:11 PM

Air pollution is a key issue and for parents, the effects of air pollution raise concerns. As India has progressed in terms of industrialization in the pursuit of economic development, it has also unboxed the serious problem of air pollution.

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Air pollution is not only causing acute respiratory infections and bronchitis morbidity among young children but is also becoming a leading cause of rising mental health problems.

By Meenal Arora

Air pollution is a key issue and for parents, the effects of air pollution raise concerns. As India has progressed in terms of industrialization in the pursuit of economic development, it has also unboxed the serious problem of air pollution. In the last few decades, the levels of carbon emissions in the country have been increasing manifold due to expanding cities, swelling traffic and higher energy consumption trends. The pollution levels in Indian cities are way beyond the safe limits as per the WHO guidelines. The reports state that India houses seven of the ten most polluted cities in the world. So, how air pollution affects a child’s physical development is briefly discussed. 

Effects of Air Pollution 

Thus, the incidence of respiratory diseases among people is very high and studies reveal that children are the most affected segment of the population. 

  • Air pollution is not only causing acute respiratory infections and bronchitis morbidity among young children but is also becoming a leading cause of rising mental health problems. 
  • Anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts are no more just adult concerns; they are bothering young children as well. 
  • An Environmental Health Perspectives journal study has shown a direct correlation between short term exposure to high ambient air pollution and psychiatric disorders. 

While the parents are making every possible effort to provide a balanced childhood to their children, they might feel helpless when it comes to air pollution causing significant health problems. 

Also Read|Delhi’s air quality drops to ‘emergency’ category first time since January

Here are some things that parents can do to ensure the well-being of their children to a great extent.

  1. Make kids aware of air pollution: If you enlighten kids about the causes of air pollution and its effects, they will be more driven towards making conscious decisions in their daily lives and taking preventive measures. By focusing on issues like eliminating the burning of garbage or any kind of waste, reducing energy consumption at home and giving up on burning crackers during Diwali etc, you can inculcate environmental consciousness in them. This will not only make them more responsible as individuals but also eventually help them in coping with their stress in a much better way. 
  2. Involving them in indoor activities: Contrary to what you have heard while growing up, you should try to keep the children indoors, particularly when the air quality is worse. Try devising indoor activities that are productive yet fun for the kids to engage in. You can involve them in potting air-purifying plants like aloe vera, bamboo palm, golden pothos, peace lily, English ivy and tell them about their benefits; or practice yoga sessions and breathing exercises with them. Such activities would not only improve their health but can also help them gain a new perspective of the world they live in.
  3. Use a mask yourself before stepping out to teach them by example: Nothing you say makes sense to children until they see you actually follow your teachings. Wearing a mask can filter out the smaller particulate matter and lower the level of the bad air one inhales. Make it a point to wear one while stepping out to show them its importance. In no time you will be seeing them do the same.
  4. Keep children hydrated: Give them enough fluids throughout the day to help them flush out toxins that might have accumulated due to pollution. They might not always be willing to drink water, so you can replace it with lemonade, coconut water and fresh juices to break the monotony. Telling them about the importance of hydration would also go a long way in inspiring them to consume more fluids on their own.
  5. Add more foods rich in vitamin C to your kids’ diet to boost immunity: Incorporating vitamin C and vitamin E rich foods in your kids’ diet can help build their immune system. Vitamin C is the most potent antioxidant for the body and also contributes to vitamin E regeneration. These can together combat ill-effects of air pollution by improving the body’s respiratory health. In this context, coriander leaves, chaulai ka saag, citrus fruits, fish, sunflower seeds etc are some foods to look out for. Use these creatively in different recipes so that the children can willingly eat them.

These are some tips you can start with to raise a healthier and happier generation of children. As they grow older, you can look at increasing their knowledge about air pollution by subscribing to science journals or other informative publications. This can further stimulate their curiosity and even inspire them to take large scale measures to combat pollution and make the world a sustainable place.

(The columnist is Founder Director, Shemford Group of Futuristic School. Views expressed are personal.)

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