If you’ve been living in India and have access to the TV/internet/newspapers, you can’t have missed all the news about the intense pollution in parts of north India. The Air Quality Index (AQI) got so bad that it was recorded to be above 400. To put that in perspective, doctors compare it to inhaling 50 cigarettes a day – yes, 50! According to a report in Lancet, pollution kills about 2.5 million people in India every year. Of the 20 worst cities for air quality in the whole world, half are in India alone. Now you can see why this is such a big problem! As parents, this problem takes on a more serious note, as we look for tips to protect kids from air pollution all around us.
What is Smog?
Smog is considered a mixture of smoke and fog, and is a pollutant of air. This smog is usually made of gases like nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulphur oxides and smoke from various sources. Smog may also contain particles of other pollutants like Carbon Monoxide, CFCs and radioactive substances. Smog is considered a serious health risk, particularly to senior citizens, young children and patients of heart/lung complications.
Smog may be caused by the following:
- Crop burning, where stalks are burnt after crops are harvested
- Increase in large scale construction sites
- Emissions from factories and industrial plants
- Increase in the number of vehicles, particularly the ones that use diesel
- Rampant use of crackers for festivals, weddings etc.
- Stagnant winds that don’t disperse dust and pollutants effectively
Effects on Health
You don’t need a degree in environmental science to know that all this pollution can hurt our health and the health of our loved ones. The most common and immediate symptoms are coughing, wheezing, sneezing, being out of breath, chest constriction, and an aggravation of allergies and asthma. In the case of people with existing respiratory or cardiac conditions, the symptoms can even be life threatening.
The worst part is that children are particularly susceptible to these problems, probably because they tend to breathe at a higher rate than grownups. Their smaller body weight also makes them more vulnerable to an increase in air pollution levels. The pollutants in the air get into kids’ lungs for sure, but they can also cause lasting damage to their developing brains. Children who have existing heart, lung or asthmatic conditions may be at greater risk. According to the UNICEF, air pollution is the cause of death for 600,000 children across the world, every single year.
It is obvious that major changes are required in policies at the municipality and government levels, but as parents, we can’t just sit around and wait for them to come into effect. In the mean time, the pollution just keeps getting worse, and the health of our kids is at stake. So while governments take their time to do their thing, we have to find ways to work around the situation and look for tips to protect kids from air pollution.
10 Tips to Protect Kids from Air Pollution
1. Stay indoors. The most obvious solution to avoid air pollution is to stay away from it, especially during peak smog times. Try to limit their exposure to activities that are absolutely essential, like school or a doctor’s visit.
2. Club activities. If you and your kids need to go out, try to club errands/activities together so you can avoid multiple trips to the city. Try avoiding the main city center and find places that are in the suburbs or away from the epicenter of the smog.
3. Use air masks. Air masks can help against air pollution, up to a certain extent. They are usually made of comfortable fabrics like cotton and are ergonomically designed to rest over the nose and lower face. They help to keep out dust, pollutants, bacteria and even some viruses.
4. Keep indoors clean. Use heavy curtains and keep the polluted air from entering your homes. Make sure the paint on your walls doesn’t contain harmful substances that give out toxic fumes that can cause symptoms similar to those caused by air pollution.
5. Don’t burn garbage. Unfortunately many Indian homes still do this as a form of waste management. Burning things like plastic can make the air quality much worse, so find a more eco-friendly and sustainable form of getting rid of waste.
6. Drink plenty of fluids. Good fluid intake is recommended for everyone in the family, especially kids. It helps as a form of detoxing the body, and flushing out the toxins that can aggravate symptoms.
7. Avoid strenuous activity. When kids play hard and get out of breath, they end up breathing at a faster rate, which means an increase rate of entry for the various pollutants around them. Restrict sports and heavy activity to days that have cleaner air.
8. Eat the right food. During times of intense air pollution, it makes sense to ensure that our immune systems are well nourished. Try fruits and vegetables that have high contents of Vitamin C and Omega fatty acids.
9. Use air purifiers. Air purifiers are ideal for families that have members prone to asthma or allergies. They help to purify air by removing allergens and tiny particles, helping everyone to breathe and sleep better. You can also have one in your car when on the move.
10. Keep purifying plants indoors. A natural way to keep your home air clean is by having indoor plants that purify air. Plants like areca palm, aloe vera, azalea and Tulsi all help to keep your home feeling fresh.
Trying to protect kids from air pollution is a continuous process and you need to continue maintaining your action plan. Check out these tips and if the smog gets too much to handle, maybe a trip away to cleaner locale is just what you need!