Child Respiratory Health: Tips for Promoting Healthy Lungs
From knowing which condition is impacting respiratory health, to understanding the basics of treatment, this information will help you have healthier, happier children.
The Enhanced Effect of Respiratory Conditions on ChildrenEveryone, no matter what their age, should be informed about respiratory health. After all, our lung health is essential to quality of life, daily activities, and general well-being.
For small children, however, the issue is even more important. This is because of the size of their lungs compared to the size of their bodies.
According to a report from the World Health Organization, children inhale more pollutants in comparison to their body weight than adults. Infants and children, the report states, have higher resting metabolisms, meaning they inhale more (in proportion to their weight) when at rest, and have a higher rate of oxygen consumption per unit of body weight.
Children not only have increased need for oxygen, they also have smaller windpipes, which makes restriction of the airways even more severe. For example, if an adult loses one millimeter of airway space due to, say, asthma irritation, it takes away about 19% of their airway diameter. If, however, a child loses a millimeter, it takes away 56% of their airway diameter. They lose over half of their airway diameter when the windpipe shrinks by a mere millimeter!
Since children have increased needs for oxygen compared to their overall size, and can be severely affected by even the smallest change in lung capacity, parents need to be informed of the best techniques for maintaining healthy lungs in their kids. This will include many steps, from doctor visits to in-home air purification.
Common Types of Respiratory Conditions for ChildrenThere are many different types of respiratory illnesses and conditions that could affect your child. Creating a list that covers each respiratory disease would be virtually impossible, but these are a few of the conditions that commonly impact the lungs of children all across the country.
AsthmaAccording to statistics from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, one in ten children have been diagnosed with asthma. This condition causes a restriction in the airways and makes it difficult for people to breathe. While there can be many triggers, asthma attacks often occur during vigorous exercise. Exposure to outside substances, such as dust or smoke, can also cause problems among allergy sufferers.
Asthma generally causes a restriction in the airways in one of three ways: a buildup of interior mucus in the windpipes, an inflammation of interior tissues, or a constriction of the muscles that surround the airways. It’s also possible for multiple issues to occur at once, for example, children with asthma can experience inflammation on interior tissues as well as restricting of muscles, which would cause a severe reduction in lung function.
Allergic RhinitisAllergic reactions occur when the immune system attacks substances that it deems harmful, even when these substances are no threat to overall health. With peanut allergies, for example, the immune system reacts to peanuts as a threat, causing a variety of health issues. Allergic rhinitis is a form of allergies that is specifically marked by allergic reactions to airborne substances that are inhaled.
Allergic rhinitis can include allergies to dust, pet dander, or pollen. Hay fever, for example, is a common type of allergic rhinitis. If children are allergic to airborne substances, it can cause serious problems for their comfort, activity level, and overall health.
Cystic FibrosisCaused by a defective gene, cystic fibrosis is marked by a sticky buildup of mucus in the lungs as well as other organs. When mucus generates in the lungs, it traps bacteria and eventually can lead to infections and even long-term lung damage, as well as a reduction in lung function.
Although far less common than allergies or asthma, cystic fibrosis can be extremely dangerous to children. It is marked by persistent coughing, frequent lung infections, wheezing, shortness of breath, and inhibited growth among children, even when diet is adequate. This condition is a genetic disorder and diagnosis needs to be conducted by a trained medical professional.
COPDChronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly known as “COPD,” is a catchall term used to describe a series of lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and other conditions. COPD is often thought of as a disease that affects the elderly, but it impacts the lung function of children as well.
COPD is caused by various factors, including exposure to smoke and environmental factors like chemicals, dust, and fumes. However, there are also genetic factors that may cause COPD. There are genetic risks that may cause children who have never been exposed to harmful chemicals to develop the condition in some form.
Again, these are just a four of the common conditions that may affect your child. If your child is experiencing issues with their health in any way, it’s essential that you have a doctor conduct a full diagnosis so you can help improve their health.
How to Improve Comfort for Children with Respiratory ConditionsIf you have a child who suffers from any form of respiratory condition, you are obviously going to do whatever you can to improve their comfort, health, and quality of life. After all, we want to raise happy, healthy, active children, and child respiratory health is an important part of that goal.
While there are some general changes you can make to improve your child’s respiratory health, you should understand that the specifics will largely depend on the child’s diagnosis. For example, if you learn that your child’s respiratory health is being affected by pet allergies, you’re going to make changes that reduce exposure to pet dander. If your child is affected by asthma, you’re going to make sure they have the inhaler and medication they need to avoid asthma attacks.
However, these are a few of the steps you can take to improve child respiratory health, regardless of diagnosis. In fact, these tips are good for their health even if they don't have a respiratory illness.
Healthy DietFood can have an astounding impact on the overall health of a child, including their respiratory health. A healthy diet will strengthen a child’s defenses against lung diseases and exterior pollution. A diet plentiful in fruits and vegetables will give them the best chance at getting all the vitamins they need for complete health. Teaching your child healthy eating habits will also improve their health throughout their entire lives.
Plenty of SleepIt’s a well-accepted fact that plenty of sleep helps your body prepare to fight disease and illness. The same principle extends to a child’s respiratory health. Lack of sleep can not only open the door for new respiratory conditions, it can make the symptoms of current conditions even worse.
The Sleep Foundation provides useful guidelines for parents to help their children get plenty of sleep. For example, they say that toddlers should get roughly 11 to 14 hours of sleep, while school-aged children need 9 to 11 hours a night. Making sure your child has enough sleep can help their bodies fight off respiratory conditions.
Physical ActivityHaving routine physical exercise is also part of an overall plan for respiratory health. Obviously, you want to encourage your child to exercise within reason, and if they are having issues, such as asthma symptoms, it’s best to let them rest. However, encouraging play and exercise will help your child develop stronger lungs that are more capable of dealing with current and future respiratory health conditions.
Medical CheckupsAs we discussed earlier, there are many respiratory conditions that can affect your child’s overall respiratory health. For this reason, having routine checkups will help identify any potential health issues that may occur in the lungs or respiratory tract. Even if your child is showing no signs of any respiratory problems, having regular checkups will identify any issues, such as a respiratory infection or respiratory disease, that could become major problems in the future.
External Causes of Children’s Respiratory ConditionsWhile many respiratory conditions are caused by internal factors, such as genetics, it is possible for a child’s health to be negatively impacted by outside factors. The good news here is that you can, for the most part, control exposure to exterior substances and chemicals, as opposed to genetics, which are virtually impossible to control.
One of the biggest culprits is secondhand smoke. While extensive efforts have been made to reduce childhood exposure to smoking, many kids are still affected by the issue. Parental smoking can cause lung problems in children both born and unborn, and a study from St George’s Hospital Medical School in London found that “benefits to children would arise if parents stopped smoking after birth, even if the mother smoked during pregnancy.” The message is simple: it’s never too late to quit smoking, and when you do, it will have a positive impact on the overall health of your children.
General indoor air pollution can also have an impact on a child’s health. Indoor air pollution is a term that can include many different substances, including volatile organic chemicals, dust, combustion products, and more. (Tobacco smoke can be considered a part of indoor air pollution.) Even common outdoor chemicals, such as ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, industrial air pollution, and nitrogen dioxide, can be found indoors. These chemicals can make child respiratory health even more difficult to control.
Benefits of Using Home Air Purifier for a Child’s HealthAlthough scientific research is still weighing the benefits of using a home air purifier to prevent and lessen respiratory conditions, there appears to be increasing evidence that using an air purifier in your home could bring potential benefits.
For example, a review of scientific articles on the subject of air filters and air cleaners found studies that support multiple interventions to increase health and well-being for respiratory sufferers. The review even noted one study that supported the use of HEPA air cleaners for clinical benefits among people with asthma.
While studies have been unable to uncover benefits for using a single air purifier to clean multiple rooms, there is research that demonstrates a purifier will have noticeable benefits in a single room.
If you are interested in using a home air purifier, there are multiple choices available. While the specific option you choose may depend on the condition affecting your child, there are many purifiers that are great for general home use.
If your child has asthma, for example, the Max HEPA air purifier is a great choice. However, this air purifier also meets the needs of people who are concerned about their child’s allergies and other respiratory diseases.
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