We have all become well aware of the air pollution situation in Delhi. Due to the the change in wind direction and rampant stubble burning in neighbouring states within 24 hours the pollution has become so severe that the residents are living in a thick haze. According to experts newborns in Delhi are breathing in air that is equivalent to smoking 25 cigarettes!
When you breathe in polluted air, particles and pollutants penetrate and inflame the linings of your bronchial tubes and lungs. This leads to respiratory illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing.
Children seem to be most vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution because their defence mechanisms are still evolving and because they inhale a higher volume of air per body weight than adults. Children who already have asthma are at a higher risk. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness and the third leading cause of hospitalisation among children under the age of 15 worldwide. With the increase of pollution in Delhi, more and more children are being effected.
Here are some tips on how to protect your child from the air pollution:
1. Monitor Air Quality
You can choose from several apps that give you an air quality forcast. When an unhealthy air quality level is reached you will be notified via phone or email. If you can’t get one of these, monitor the local news and weather channels who will update you on the current weather situation.
2. Close windows and turn on AC/Air purifier
As the pollution levels are extremely high right now, you need to limit the air that comes into your house. If the windows are open, it doesn’t make a difference to be inside or outside. Make sure your windows and doors are closed and turn on your AC or air purifier.
3. Limit outside play and physical exertion
Timing is everything when the pollution stats are so high. Ozone often peaks in the mid afternoon/early evening so make sure you don’t let your child go out and play then. You can let your child play indoors where the air is filtered by an air conditioning system or air purifier.
4. Buy a good face mask
If your child has to go outside, buy a good face mask to protect them from the hazardous pollution. Statistics from some of the highest polluted cities in the world show that people who wear face masks showed less effects of air pollution on their heart rhythms and blood pressure compared to those with no masks. You can buy good masks online or pick some up from your local pharmacy.
5. Breathing Exercises
“To breathe is to live, and without breath there is no life”
It has been proven that breathing exercises can help strengthen your lungs, cleanse your nasal passage and help you combat pollutants as well as a number of other benefits.
Here are some fun breathing techniques you can introduce to your child at home:
Flower Breath – Get your child to imagine they are smelling a flower. Breath deeply through the nose and out throughout he mouth.
Hissing Breath – Ask your child to inhale deeply through their nose and exhale through their mouth making a hissing sound. They can pretend to be snakes.
Bear Breath – Get your child to inhale through their nose and hold the breath for a few seconds before exhaling. This can be repeated 3-4 times.
Rabbit Breath – Get your child to take 3 quick sniffs, inhaling in through their nose and then give a long exhale through the mouth. They can pretend to be little bunnies.
Balloon Breath – Get your child to imagine they are a balloon. You are going to pretend to fill up the balloon with your breath. Ask your child to fill their lungs, ribs, chest and stomachs with as much air as possible to “fill up the balloon”.
6. Eat the right foods
Research shows that foods rich in Vitamin E and C can help to counteract the effects of air pollution on the lungs. They help to clean your system, particularly your airways, as these foods are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory qualities.
Foods that are a good source of Vitamin E and C:
• Raw seeds – sunflower/pumpkin/seseme
• Olive Oil
As well as these great foods, you can incorporate as many fruits and veggies into your child’s diet as possible. By encouraging this, your child’s intake of food rich in vitamins and antioxidants will increase.
7. Bring plants into the house
Plants are notoriously known to absorb gases through pores on the surface of their leaves such as carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Scientists studying the air-purification capacities of indoor plants have found that plants can absorb many other gases in addition to carbon dioxide.
It is a good idea to get some houseplants to literally “clean the air”. You can find these plants in most garden nurseries in and around Delhi:
• Aloe Vera
• Golden Pothos
• Peace Lily
• Weeping Fig
• English Ivy
• Warneck Dracaena
• Chinese Evergreen
• Bamboo Palm
• Green Spider Plant
• Snake Plant
• Areca Palm
All of the tips mentioned are things that you can do NOW to protect your child from air pollution. We must also look at the long run and how we can contribute to improving the air that our children breath.
The best way to limit pollution and have a positive effect on the environment is to “go green”. Going green helps the environment by reducing the amount of pollution that enters the soil, water and air.
By making simple changes in our everyday lives, we can improve the planet we all share.