Categories: General Health

Climate change is here and it’s urgent!

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.”

– Mark Twain (1835 – 1910), celebrated American writer, satirist.

Or in other words, when it comes to climate or weather: hope for the best, be prepared for the worst. This is an essential rule in life, including for dealing with weather changes beyond our control. Be aware, be prepared. And ensure children’s well being during sudden climate or weather changes.

Climate change is not some futuristic doomsday scenario. It is unravelling now, every day. We increasingly experience freakish temperatures worldwide, unexplained weather events and extremes of heat or cold, unseasonal rain. Coastal cities are threatened with rising sea levels; a lengthy pollen season helps disease-carrying insects wreak more damage.

Children are already victims of climate change; they suffer health consequences and may continue to do so until we limit carbon emissions from power plants, end fossil fuel subsidies and move to cleaner energy sources. Essentially, we need to stop getting lured by short-term economic gains while ignoring the long-term damage.

India has three seasons: summer, monsoon, and winter. Sudden rain in the scorching heat of May might be welcoming, but it is not good news for farmers with crops damaged due to unseasonal rain. Extended unseasonal rain also causes an unexpected increase in ailments and people suddenly feeling unwell.

With sudden weather changes, viral and bacterial infections shoot up. Young children often succumb to this bacterial or viral outbreak. Upset stomachs (diarrheal illnesses), fever, cough, cold and sore throats are common ailments among children. This disrupts the child’s health and affects studies since exams are mostly held during these months. Poor health and the pressure of exams make a stressful combination for school-going children.

Children become more vulnerable to climate change since they have fewer sweat glands than adults. This reduces the child’s ability to maintain the core body temperature. Extreme summer heat can have children suffering from heat exhaustion and the more serious heat stroke.

Tips to prevent weather-related health mishaps for children:

Superfoods: To fight increased viruses during weather changes feed the child immunity-boosting foods such as banana, soup, fruit juices high in vitamin C, etc.

Water intake: Children should drink sufficient water daily to flush out the toxins and keep the body well-hydrated.

Vaccination: A flu vaccine will be helpful

Good hygiene: Children should be taught to make it a habit to cover their mouths while coughing, regularly washing hands, particularly after returning home after playing or from school, etc. Children should wash their hands before and after meals. Remind them against rubbing their eyes, nose, and mouth with their bare fingers as this can cause infection through germs. Hand hygiene is an important health factor in children.

Strong disinfectants: Add some Dettol or any other safe disinfectant while cleaning the floor and the table. Bring home a hand sanitizer.

Sufficient sleep: Ensure the child gets enough sleep. Stress weakens immunity and is likely to make the child more vulnerable to seasonal weather changes. Good rest is essential for children.

Correct clothing: Children can be clothed in multiple layers, the outer garment can be added or removed depending on the weather.

Good skin and hair care: Use aqua-based moisturizers to ensure the child’s skin or hair does not become dry. A cap or scarf to cover the head is also a good idea, to protect the child from extreme heat or sudden cold.

Ginger and honey: A better option for children than cough syrups. A ginger-honey dose can relieve itchy throats during weather changes.

Mosquito protection: Children can wear a long-sleeved shirt or t-shirt, long pants, socks and shoes in areas prone to mosquitoes.

Dr. Oniel Fernandes, Consultant Pediatrician, Narayana Medical Centre, Langford Town, Bangalore

Narayana Health

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