Dr Mark Rosenthal

MD MB ChB FRCP FRCPCH BSc

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

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Growing awareness of the impact of air pollution has made many parents wonder about what they can do to protect their children’s lungs. Being aware of the risks is important so that you can take steps to reduce them as much as possible.

How to Keep Your Child’s Lungs Healthy?The Importance of Looking After Children’s Lungs

Children’s lungs are still developing so it is essential to look after them in order to ensure that they grow and develop as well as possible. The lungs develop most rapidly in the first couple of years as they build new air sacs or alveoli. However, lung development doesn’t stop there. Children’s lungs continue to develop throughout childhood, especially before the age of eight. Even teenagers are still developing new air sacs in their lungs so it is essential to keep looking after their health as they reach adulthood.

As well as ensuring that children’s lungs are able to grow and develop well, it is also important to protect them because they are more vulnerable while they are still small. Smaller lungs and airways can be affected more severely by infections and other causes of inflammation. Any swelling inside the airways can be more serious when those airways are already small. Children are therefore more likely to develop complications when they fall ill. Children also have immature immune systems that are less good at preventing illnesses so it’s important to do what you can to help their lungs to stay healthy.

5 Tips for Healthy Lungs

If you’re a parent then there are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that your child’s lungs grow and develop in a healthy way.

  • Don’t Expose Children to Smoke:

One of the most important things you can do to look after your child’s lungs and their general health is to ensure that they aren’t exposed to smoke. Second-hand smoke can be very harmful, especially to small lungs that are still developing. It’s essential to ensure that no one smokes near your child but you should also prevent anyone smoking in your home or car as the chemicals can hang around for many hours.

  • Avoid Air Pollution as Much as Possible:

Awareness is growing of the damage that air pollution can do to our health. Some of the worst effects are on our children’s lungs. Although it isn’t possible to avoid air pollution completely, there are some things you can do to reduce your child’s exposure. Keeping away from the busiest roads can make a big difference to air quality but just ensuring that your child walks on the side of the pavement furthest from the traffic can reduce their exposure as the heaviest particles of pollution can’t travel far in the air. You should also be aware of air pollution inside your home, which can come from chemical such as cleaning products or smoke from fires or wood burners.

  • Encourage Children to Exercise:

Physical activity plays an important role in healthy lung development. It’s important for children to get regular exercise, whether this is through joining a local sports team or simply going to the park to run around and play. Spending time in green spaces is also a good way to ensure that children are breathing less polluted air.

  • Reduce the Risk of Infections:

Children are more vulnerable to colds and respiratory infections due to their developing immune systems and smaller lungs. Practicing good hygiene such as handwashing can reduce the risk of catching infections. It’s also a good idea to give your child the seasonal flu vaccine to protect them against the main strains of influenza that are circulating each year.

  • Know When to See a Doctor:

Taking the above steps to protect your child’s lungs can reduce the risk of problems developing, but it is also important to be aware of the signs that something is wrong. You should consult a doctor if you notice that your child is wheezing, coughs a lot, or has a persistent or severe respiratory infection. Symptoms like this aren’t always a sign of anything serious but they could indicate that your child needs treatment for a respiratory infection or a condition such as asthma.

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