Dr. Ankur Sethi MD Paediatrics, Atlanta Hospital, Ghaziabad

The winter season brings a nip and chill in the air and the onset of various woes associated with it. The cold air gets heavier leading to greater hanging of these pollutants at the breathing height. The viruses in this changing weather happily proliferate and add to the sufferings of the population.

Children are always the worst sufferers of these changes leading to a multitude of problems. Owing to their delicate systems, low immunity and narrow airway tracts children are especially prone to various ailments.

Adverse Respiratory Effects

Upper Respiratory



Acute Pulmonary Hemorrhage



Sudden infant death syndrome

Changes in lung function

Asthma/Bronchospasm/ Allergies

can be pictured as a pyramid shown here.

Everyone is affected by the adverse health effects of winter and pollution to some extent. And these problems are increasing with each passing year.

While most people think of only pneumonia and asthma as a result of these factors, there are other ailments which can occur.

Use of biomass and solid fuels for household cooking and heating is associated with increase in acute respiratory infections – the leading cause of death in children under 5 years.

Indoor air pollution with environmental tobacco smoke is linked to acute otitis media.

Outdoor exposure to ozone is linked to bronchospasm and asthma attacks in some children.

Exposure to indoor moulds is associated with acute pulmonary hemorrhage among infants.

High exposure to particulate and second hand smoke is associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Thus, environmental health problems contribute very significantly to “burden of disease” in childhood. According to World Health Report, besides under nutrition, and safe water supply, air pollution is the third most important factor contributing to poor health.

Reasons why children are more vulnerable

Higher Exposures because they spend more time outside

Inhale more pollutants per kilogram of body weight than do adults

Because airways are narrower, irritation can result in proportionately greater airway obstruction.

Interventions Recommended:

We expect the government and administration to shoulder all the responsibility for preventing these problems. No doubt, major policy changes with respect to industrial and vehicular pollution, burning of leaves and garbage, transport and infrastructure planning falls in their domain. But, as individuals we can take certain steps to decrease these problems:

Make efforts at individual and family level to avoid increasing pollution at home and surroundings.

Properly clothe children and protect them from exposure to cold winds.

Avoid visits to over congested places, where exposure to infections from others is common.

Wash hands frequently and especially after contact with someone who has running nose or cough and fever.

Avoid exposure to smoke of any kind especially in indoor environment.

Provide proper nutrition for optimal growth and development.

Last, but very important, properly and timely immunization of children with all available vaccines. 

Seek early consultation with your pediatrician at the onset of any significant illnesses in the children.