Taking a deep breath
As a parent, you are always trying to keep your children safe, but have you thought much about their lungs?
Dr. Shimoni Dharia, a pediatric pulmonologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, offers guidance on key products or environments for your child to avoid as their lungs develop and extra precautions for children with asthma.
Having your child around environments where people are smoking tobacco or marijuana is harmful for their lungs. Vaping, though not burning, still creates a vapor that includes nicotine and other chemicals that children should be kept away from as scientists keep working to examine the health effects.
“Though smoking-related health issues have been dropping because of a multi-faceted approach to encourage people to stop smoking, the rise of vaping, especially among teens, is a concern,” Dr. Dharia says.
When the bitter cold weather hits, it’s best to stay inside because below-zero temperatures can cause bronchial spasm, which causes difficulty breathing. If kids need to go out for a brief time, use a scarf. In winter, the air can get quite dry. A humidifier can be helpful, but make sure to have a meter to regulate the humidity and avoid mold growth. In extreme heat, asthmatics need to be in an air-conditioned environment and consider using dehumidifiers. But if there is no extreme weather, get them outside to exercise and strengthen their lungs and heart.
Fragrances, aerosol scent sprays, cleaning agents and essential oils can smell nice, and most don’t affect children. However, they need to be used in a well-ventilated room where the smell is not overpowering. Indoor swimming pools with high chlorine levels also can cause issues for asthmatics.
Winter is a prime time for crackling fires to curl up with your kids, but keep in mind a few things to do beforehand. Make sure the chimney is clean and maintained to provide adequate ventilation so that smoke and ash particles stay out of your house’s air. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and put in new batteries every time the time changes.
Particularly for children with asthma, allergens like dust, pets, pollen or environmental factors can trigger an asthma attack. Be aware of these triggers and minimize their impact as best you can so they are not in those environments for very long.
Though a problem in the U.S., air pollution has become an even bigger problem globally in areas of the world where air pollution and its causes have not been as regulated or limited. Particle pollution can cause long-term damage for children’s lungs. If your child has a disease or asthma, it’s best to avoid those areas. If it is not possible to avoid those places, have them wear a mask, spend less time outside and make sure there are air purifiers in their sleeping quarters.
Lung & respiratory diseases
One of the main ways to protect your child’s growing lungs is to have them receive the flu vaccine if they are 6 months or older. Vaccinating your child can prevent complications from diseases with long-term effects, such as diphtheria, measles, pneumonia and bronchitis, or at least decrease the severity of the symptoms. Children should receive the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine before they are one year old. This virus affects patients with lung disease, heart disease, muscular disease and preemies more severely than healthier children or adults. Talk to your child’s doctor about what is best.
“Increasing awareness about the influenza vaccine will help parents protect their child’s lungs,” Dr. Dharia says. “Look at third world countries where parents are with their children, waiting in lines to receive this vaccine, because their children are dying from preventable diseases. If they had only had access and low-costs to the flu vaccine.”
About the Author
Jennifer Benson, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs for Advocate Aurora Health. She has 10+ years of community development and communication experience for non-profits and has a BA in Architecture from Judson University in Elgin, IL. Outside of work, you can find her planning the next adventure near water or rocks, re-organizing spaces, working on her Master’s in Public Health, caring for her senior citizen cat, keeping to healthy moving and eating disciplines and growing green things wherever she can find room.