Diwali festivities are eye magnets for Indians, especially children. What could be better than approximately a week of holidays, gifts, chocolates, lights, parties and sparkles? Even adults are fascinated by the extravagant jubilation. But Diwali is a dicey time of the year. There are ample distractions that can lead to some health issues. And children, in particular, are more prone to come across these health problems.
Education is a powerful tool and it can help in tackling almost anything. So to gain some verified wisdom, we spoke to Dr. Sanjay Wazir, consultant paediatrician at Cloudnine Hospital, Gurgaon. In our exchange with Dr. Wazir, we discussed the safety and precautionary tips for children during Diwali. Learn more from our interaction ahead.
Tips For Protecting Children During Diwali
1. Diwali marks a change in seasons. Besides the onset of cold weather, there is also excessive smog. What precautions should parents take to protect their children from ailments like fever, infection etc.?
Ans. Diwali is a festival where people like to meet each other. They visit each other’s houses on the day of or few weeks prior to Diwali. So because of this intermingling, there is a higher chance of infections that may spread. These infections can result in respiratory illnesses. In addition, festive food can cause gastrointestinal infections. So it is important to note that when you visit somebody’s house, you should ensure that you are not ill. Another point is that if you find somebody sneezing or coughing, you should maintain some distance from that person. These are the ways to avoid contracting an infection.
It is suggested that you eat food in small quantities. Because many-a-times, people tend to overeat at parties. If you overeat time and again during this period, you may end up harming your stomach eventually. So eat in bits when you go for the parties as well.
During the day time, if and when you visit marketplaces and you are tempted to eat something, try to control your temptation. It is important to stay away as far as possible from these food stalls. Unless you are looking at completely cooked food. Freshly cooked food brings your risk of infections to minimal. So raw and street food is something which should be avoided during this time.
2. How much risk does air and noise pollution cause to a baby’s growth?
Ans. When we talk about a baby, we consider a newborn or a toddler. Unlike infections that have an immediate effect on a child, pollution is something that has a long lasting effect. Air pollution causes effects in terms of reduced respiratory functions. Longevity has shown to be decreased in areas where air pollution levels remain very high all the time. It has an impact on the long-term outcome. Infact, other neurotoxins are also present in the environment that impact a child’s health. The presence of these neurotoxins has been linked to a poor neurodevelopmental outcome or lower developmental quotient for the babies in the long run.
So it is not only during Diwali that you should also be concerned about pollution but throughout the year. Parents should avoid letting children go out at the time when the Air Quality Index is very high. This is especially relevant for children who have underlying cardiac or respiratory illnesses or other allergy. These situations tend to get worse immediately with the onset of heightened pollutant levels especially the PM2.5 particulate levels.
Diwali is the time when PM2.5 and other known air pollutants increase largely. It is important to avoid going outside when these levels are very high. There are indicators available on the internet where one can find out about the air quality index of any city in the world. If the index value is very high do not step out or go outdoors with an air filtering mask. If possible, it is also suggested that you use an air purifier inside your home to keep children safe.
As far as the noise is concerned, sudden exposure to loud and intense sounds can lead to a long term ear damage. If the sound is of a very high decibel then it can even cause a rupture of the eardrum. Avoid taking children very close to bursting crackers as it is not a great idea. You can also find a variety of noise cancelling headphones or other ear muffs online. You can use these products to help reduce the effect of noise pollution. But putting air plugs in small babies is not a good idea.
3. What tips and tricks can parents inculcate in their lifestyles to prevent respiratory problems in children during and after Diwali?
Ans. When we talk about tips during and after Diwali, as I just mentioned, you need to look at the air quality index outside. As well, the amount of physical activity that you do should be determined with the amount of air pollution that is there in your area. If the pollution levels are very high doing a lot of physical activity at that time is not a good idea. Because during physical activity you are going to breathe as much faster and if you are going to breathe faster, you are going to take much more air deeper inside the lungs.
The second point that you need to take care of is that outdoor air pollution is just as bad as the indoor air pollution. So you should make sure that you vacuum your house once a week to ensure that all the pollutants are taken care of. You could also probably use plants which are anti-pollution. But make sure you don’t have flowering plants inside because they can lead to an increase in pollen intensity and can be worse for children who have a pre-existing lung disease.
4. What precautionary steps would you suggest for parents if they choose to take their infant along at markets at peak rush hours?
Ans. With very small infants, you should probably choose a time to go out when there is no peak rush hour. In crowded places, there is a likelihood of a spread of airborne materials like the particulates or viruses in the form of aerosols. And somebody may sneeze in front of your child and your child is likely to get an infection. With smaller children, I suggest that you plan market visits when it is a lean hour and not rush hour.
Having said that if your visit is unavoidable at rush hours, just make sure these three things. One that because children tend to get hungry very frequently, ensure that you are carrying enough eatables before you have started your journey from home. It should be done so that they do not get hungry and ask for a street food at the marketplace.
Second that you need to see that in the markets also, there will be areas which are lightly concentrated and areas where there are more people. Smaller children should avoid the latter, again for the risk of respiratory illnesses.
Third, avoid any show with a very bright light or a flickering lights along with loud music. Try to avoid those particular shops and stops when you are going out in those areas.
5. Children are exposed to an increased sugary intake during the festival season. What should parents watch out for?
Ans. First and foremost, we must realise that the biggest problem in the world which is affecting mankind and worsening the health of the children, even adults, is the increasing rate of obesity. The major part of obesity is related to the increased sugar intake.
Earlier people used to think it is the fat which is the culprit but now we realise that sugar is the real culprit. Introduction of sugar very early in the infant’s life or making him/her have the preferences for usgary things would tend to cause children to have long term sugar preferences. And it is difficult to get rid of those later in life. When the child reaches one year of age, you should make sure that your house is free of chocolates and sweets.
Yes, festivities do mean exchanging joy but joy can be spread in forms other than sharing sweets like ladoos or barfi. It is important to look at the festival in the context of long term health of the child.
As Indians, we are obliged to carry sweets when we visit someone at their house. It may look good from a festival point of view. But if you are really caring for that other family which you are visiting or the child to whom you are going to present something, look after their health. Think from a long term perspective. You could probably gift a salad bowl, sugar free candies or healthy eating snacks, for example. There are plenty of these products in the market which you could use to share your joy in that sense.
If somebody gifts these things to you, my advice is that you distribute the sweets to less privileged in your building or society. There would probably be guards or maids, or other people who do not have enough access to such food. There are some people who are unfortunate to not afford sweets and other delicacies, it is advised that you share your sweets with them. Since for them any food is good food. Other people who have normal access to food should try to get rid of these sugary things. Do not stock them in your fridge. Even if you are tempted to take sweets, you should rather go to the market to eat. This way you will benefit yourself in two ways. One is that you will not visit the market many number of times so your temptaion would be controlled. And secondly, you would at least practice the routine of walking or going to the market. You can do these steps but never stock your fridge with any food which is sweet and unhealthy.
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