For any parent of a child with asthma, allergies and other respiratory challenges, finding a way to ease their symptoms and discomfort can be an ongoing, frustrating challenge. When my son was three, he was diagnosed with asthma and I needed to administer his yellow, “ducky” shaped inhaler every four hours during California’s allergy season in May and October. This meant padding into his room in the middle of the night and trying to carefully and quietly administer his Albuterol. He hated it. I hated it. Not much fun for either of us.
Unfortunately, because of poor air quality in many areas in the U.S. and its persistent negative health effects, many children miss out on strong respiratory health, forced to spend their recess in the classroom to avoid respiratory triggers, coughing all night, missing out on quality sleep, wheezing to catch their breath and unable to enjoy fun kid activities. The health risks associated with poor air quality for children is a pervasive issue and an ongoing cycle. According to a World Health Organization study in 2018, every day more than 90% of the world’s children breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk.
While we may not be able to completely purify the outdoor air for our children, we can strengthen their immunity and help them prepare to play outside by providing quality air while they are INSIDE.
Why Indoor Air Quality Matters
Because pollution is commonly associated with the outdoors, indoor air quality is often overlooked, making it particularly harmful if not treated. Indoor air pollution can be caused by a variety of sources which release gasses, germs and particles into the air, including cleaning products, furniture, pets, cooking and family members with a cold or flu. And these contaminants are quite prevalent — unless the indoor air is purified, you will find some of them in every home. For example, the WHO reports that more than 40% of the world’s population – which includes one billion children under 15 – is exposed to high levels of household air pollution from cooking, cleaning products, flame retardants and aerosol sprays.
When a space is poorly ventilated, humid, or warm, these pollutants become more concentrated and more unhealthy. Because of the dangers posed by indoor air pollution, improving airflow and air quality should be primary concerns in any home, but especially one with children.
Health Risks Children Face due to Air Pollution
Everyone benefits from good air quality, but it’s especially important for children because they’re particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.
Children inhale more frequently than adults, taking in, on average, nearly 60% more breaths per minute while at rest than adults. As a result, their lungs absorb more pollutants with each additional breath. Additionally, about 80% of the air sacs in children’s lungs develop after birth, and during childhood — a formative period for lung health and long-term positive health outcomes.
Here are a few specific ways air pollution inside and outside the home affect your children’s health:
- Worse asthma symptoms and triggered asthmatic attacks
- Reduced lung growth – effects similar to growing up in a home with parents who smoke!
- Increased risk of being overweight and obese
- Increased risk of sleep-disordered breathing, which involves snoring and wheezing and can lead to growth failure and neurocognitive and behavioral abnormalities
- Impacted neurodevelopment, including lower cognitive test outcomes, negatively affecting mental and motor development
How to Improve Air Quality
The health risks children face due to poor air quality are evident. But the good news is it is entirely possible to help your child breathe cleaner air. Improving air quality has been associated with reduced respiratory symptoms and decreased asthma-related healthcare visits.
But how do you give your children cleaner air?
It’s not enough to simply open the windows or run the HVAC to freshen the air. It’s easy to forget that the outdoor air — which is already polluted — is the same air that enters your home. Once the air from outdoors is inside, human activity makes it even more dirty (pets, flame retardants on furniture, cooking, colds and flus and more).
The Answer is Air Purification.
Air purifiers provide a way for children to breathe cleaner air in the place where they usually spend most of their time: at home. Clean air is particularly beneficial during sleep when the body produces proteins called Cytokines which help protect against infection and illness. Good sleep also strengthens the body’s organs including the lungs, boosts learning, and promotes happiness and good mood. For any parent who has had the experience of a child who did not get proper sleep due to coughing or wheezing all night, the grouchy effect is misery for you and your child.
To clean the air in your home, there are two choices.
1) Individual Air Purification Units
The first is to buy a well-reviewed, free-standing floor unit. Generally they can clean around 500 square feet and are usually effective at purifying a single room. If you want to clean your entire home, you will need to buy one unit for every 500 square feet of space. They can be purchased at a variety of price points but it is important that they have a HEPA filter.
A pro tip: You should not be able to ‘smell” your air purifier. If you smell a “metal” or “sour” type smell, that’s not the right air purifier for your health.
The best placement for an air purifier in a child’s room is where the air can flow freely around it. So it’s best to not place the purifier in a corner or behind a chair or in a spot where it may be a trip hazard. Ideally, it will be placed in your child’s room 5-10 feet away from where they sleep. Some purifiers make more noise than others so if you find you need to set the unit to “low” to reduce the white noise, it will still be effective. There are also wall-mount units available which are a nice option to keep the unit off the floor and out of the way.
Pro tip: BUY EXTRA FILTERS and keep them on hand so you can change the filters every 3 months for maximum benefit. It’s easy to forget to change the filters — only 30% of Americans change all the filters in their home on time. Having them stocked and ready to go is a game changer.
2) The More Powerful Option To Clean the Air in Your Home
Whole-Home Air Purification
Another option to clean the air in your home is more robust and purifies ALL the air in your home so everyone can enjoy healthier, toxin-free air. It’s called “whole-home” air purification. At Kelliwell, our most popular “whole-home” system is a purification unit, placed out-of-sight near your HVAC which operates 24/7 to keep all the air in your home 99.9% toxin-free. The unit is quiet and efficient with an average cost to run at $4 a month. It is a powerhouse option for clean indoor air!
Purifying the air in your home to remove indoor toxins and pollutants will ensure the air your children breathe is as clean as possible. I wish I had known how important clean indoor air was when my son was three years old. I hope to continue to spread the word about clean air options for children and that these options are helpful for you and your family.
To get an idea of what’s in your home’s air and what you can do to improve the quality, sign up for a free air and water report. Also feel free to reach out to us at healthyhomes@Kelliwell.com if you’d like some input on air units we recommend.
KELLIWELL is California’s Leading Wellness Systems Company with a one-stop-shop for purified indoor living at home. We make it EASY to have a healthier home.