As toxic air looms, hospital OPDs see 30% increase in children with cough and wheeze; Mask up, stay indoors, advise doctors

As toxic air looms, hospital OPDs see 30% increase in children with cough and wheeze;  Mask up, stay indoors, advise doctors

Delhi-based Garima Singh gets discouraged every time her young son is admitted to hospital and given high-dose steroids, painful injections and annoying nebulizers. However, Singh, a publicist by trade, has no choice but to let her three-year-old son suffer all the pain.

“I blame polluted air for my baby having recurrent episodes of shortness of breath, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest congestion,” she said.

These episodes have resulted in hospital admissions three times in the last two years. “We have consulted the best neonatologists, pediatricians and pulmonologists and we have no solution for this problem,” he told

Singh added: “Because of that environment, we have stopped sending him to game school on purpose. We as parents feel guilty for keeping our child caged at a time when he should be exploring the world. But as they say, health is wealth.

Singh is not alone. In fact, hospital emergency rooms are filled with parents rushing in with their children coughing and gasping.

Dr. Krishan Chugh, Director of Pediatrics at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, told that he sees “10 or more cases every day” and “this number is higher this year.”

Children in Delhi-NCR face episodes of coughing and wheezing much more frequently, mainly one after another due to air pollution, Chugh said. “Children barely recover from one bout of illness and the next one hits them. Some unfortunate children continue to gasp and cough for weeks and months.”

Dr. Pooja Khanna, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Faridabad-based Amrita Hospital, noted a similar increase.

“In recent days, we have seen an increase in the number of pediatric patients coming in with respiratory problems,” he said, estimating that “OPD attendance of such patients is up by at least 30 percent since last season. We are seeing a steady increase in patients presenting with acute severe asthma.”

Common complaints of these children are cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. In infants, cases of bronchiolitis are common in the Outpatient Department (OPD).

Many of these children require nebulization, while some require admission and oxygen. Older children, especially those with asthma and allergies, are in an especially difficult time.

Children’s complaints have not only been observed in Delhi-NCR, but also in other states where the air quality index remains in the ‘very poor’ to ‘serious’ category.

Dr. Rajneesh Srivastava, a respiratory medicine consultant at Medanta Hospital in Lucknow, is also seeing a similar trend.

“We are seeing an increase in the incidence of asthma and respiratory infections in young children, as well as an increase in exacerbations during periods with higher levels of air pollution,” he said.

How does air pollution affect the respiratory system of children?

Air pollution not only affects the respiratory system, but has been shown to have detrimental effects on the holistic development of children, including neurocognitive impairment and low IQ.

“We need to mask our children again and try to keep them inside for the next two weeks at least,” Khanna said as he suggested using an air purifier at home.

She also advised seeing a pediatrician early if the child complains of a cough, chest tightness, or has any respiratory or nasal symptoms.

Srivastava from Medanta explained that while air pollution affects us all, children are more vulnerable to breathing polluted air.

“Children also breathe faster and take in more air, so they inhale more polluted outdoor air than adults.”

He said that children who have been exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at higher risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease or cancer in the future. “It is advisable to keep your children indoors, as wearing masks for young children is not an easy task.”

The most deleterious effect of air pollution on the growing lungs of children and infants, according to Dr. Chugh, is that the already narrow airways become even narrower due to congestion.

“This narrowing must be overcome by breathing harder and faster. It means that they will soon become fatigued and oxygen levels will begin to drop. Young children have growing lungs, which means that if such episodes occur frequently, the final growth of their lungs when they reach 10-15 years of age will not be comparable to that of their peers who did not face such episodes or were not exposed at this air level. contamination,” said the doctor.

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