It’s that time of the year again. Noses are running and eyes are watering. Throats are hurting and heads are spinning. Purifiers have been turned on, but our children are still coughing. We (mothers in Delhi NCR) are really worried about the health of our children.
Here are a few tips from a mother for other concerned mothers around how to keep their young children protected from this nasty, bad bad air, while we wait for the government or citizens to change things around…only because I feel their pain…
1. Make your child wear a mask during very poor and severe air quality hours – at all places. When they go to school or for trick or treating during Halloween or attend Diwali or Durga Puja melas. Never feel embarrassed. Even if he/she is the only one. Easier said then done, won’t come easy. Child will be mocked at – My son got called “Hanuman” recently by a parent.
But resistance will stop, if you are persistent. Buy one in their favourite colour or pattern. Reward them as super heros or super women if they agree to wear one. Wear one yourself to make them copy your behaviour and if that also does not work make them understand air quality data. A 3 year child, who can decipher colours and numbers, is also capable enough to understand the difference between severely polluted (dark red) and poor (orange).
2. Only investing in a purifier is not enough. Maintenance is more important. Filters need to be cleaned regularly and replaced in a timely manner. Please keep the windows and doors of the room shut and tightly sealed before turning on the purifier.
More challenging though is to trap 3 -4 year olds in a closed purified rooms without turning on the TV...Bring in their favourite indoor games or activities in the room that can keep them engaged for hours. On severely polluted days, my son used to make small atta plates and imprint alphabets on them with dals when he was young. Now we play UNO and other indoor board games.
3. Monitor air quality data before opening windows to ventilate your house or sending children to park.
Cool air does not imply fresh air. No opening of windows during early mornings or leaving them open for hours in the night to get cool air in the house. On severely polluted days, only open them for a short while during the afternoons when the air is usually better.
My son does not go to the park when the air is very poor or severe. On poor days, he wears a mask and go. Its a sad story, but we try to make up for lack of physical exercise by playing indoor hockey or basketball with his friends.
4. Control indoor air pollution in your house besides only worrying about the air outside.
When the air outside is bad and you don’t have the leeway to open the windows for a long time, it is even more important to keep indoor air quality in check. Always turn on the exhaust while cooking and for longer time if paranthas or fried food is on the flame. Get over the myth that scented candles or air freshener sprays freshen the air. They may get everyone in the room coughing or sneezing during bad air days. Mummas you may also want to avoid putting on the scented perfumes for Diwali parties if you don’t want your child to be sneezing around you..
Always keep your child away from the room with the broom. On severe days do not shoot more dust in the air by using a broom. Wet mopping with only water (no chemical cleaners) will keep your floors shining just as bright.
Thinking of painting the house during the Diwali season? You may want to think again. Unless you enjoy getting headaches. But the hardest – how to convince the grandparents to avoid agarbattis and dhoops during the pooja season? I once sat with a mask during the Diwali pooja and the message was conveyed easily! Health is paramount!
5. But despite our best efforts, there can still be exposure to the bad air. So what do we do to survive and avoid the nebulisers? All through the winters, my son and me have tulsi water all the time to get symptomatic relief from the damage done. Daily dose of chywanprash and fresh orange juice have also been our life savers.
Last, but not the least, most important is to make them understand that all these are only short term protective measures. To see the blue skies and bright stars in their city again and play freely in the parks in the future, they and we need to change! Our every small habit that harms the environment. For the sake of their own health and future! They may just think twice before eating a candy everyday and trashing the wrapper in the dustbin.