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Respiratory problems surging by 50% in children

Aug 29, 2016

Air pollution during damp conditions is worsening the situation, say doctors.

Gurgaon: The combination of humidity and air pollution is leading to a rise in respiratory diseases among children. Pediatricians have noted an increase in acute diseases such as asthma and upper respiratory tract infections.

This is besides the regular viral mostly peak in children during the monsoon season. This is because the moisture in the air traps polluting agents, especially particulate matter, keeping them hanging infections, accompanied by a cold, cough, and fever, seen every year.

“Respiratory problems in the atmosphere for long periods:  Unfortunately, it is not just outdoor air pollution that is causing harm. Indoor pollution too, from fumes, especially those from mosquito repellants, does impact the airways. In addition, spores from fungus and mould around houses and schools can affect those who are already asthmatic,” says Dr. Piyush Goel, Consultant Pulmonology, Columbia Asia Hospital Gurgaon.

Gurgaon has often shown hazardous levels of air pollution, both due to vehicular movement and construction work. The World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines stipulate that PM2.5 (particulate matter) over a 24-hour mean period stand at 25 μg/m3. However, in Gurgaon, in June 2016, the monthly average stood at 89.38 μg/m3.  Air pollution causes more than 3 million premature deaths every year, as per WHO reports.

The toxic air severely impacts school-going children, whose airways are still not developed, and are hence vulnerable to pulmonary (lung) infections. Acute respiratory illnesses are generally short-lived, while chronic ones are persistent in nature. Our worry is that acute infections develop into chronic ones. We see the onset of asthma in this season, and it is appearing in children as young as a few months old. Very often parents come to us by the time their children have deep-set chest infections. My advice is for parents to approach the pediatrician as soon as the problem starts. This will help us start a mild treatment, and avoid antibiotics,” adds Dr Piyush Goel.

Tips to Stay Protected

· Avoid the use of insect repellants that need to be sprayed—even those that claim they are ‘natural’

· Instead apply DEET-free mosquito repellants to your child’s skin

· Clean the house of any fungus, especially in areas that are not seen—under the sink and washbasins

· Take action to eliminate dampness from the walls, as this can breed mould

· Identify a play area that is in a green space, rather than close to a road

· If your child is comfortable with it, give him/her a mask when out playing a sport

· If your child is prone to asthma and is on SOS medicines, keep a track on what time of the day/night he/she gets it, and if it is exercise-induced; report this to the doctor

· If antibiotics have been prescribed for an infection, do keep to the dosage suggested by the doctor

· Wash curtains, pillows , bed sheets, mats, carpets at regular interval

· If someone in your household is allergic to pet dander, consider getting a non-furry pet. If you already have a cat or dog, don't let the pet sleep in your bedroom, and give it a bath at least once a week

·To help control dust mites and mold, keep humidity in your home below 50% by using dehumidifier

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