From the moment your baby enters the world, nothing is more important or precious than every breath they take. For people of any age, the quality of air respiratory health is a major topic, but ensuring that your baby is protected at the most vulnerable times of development is a big concern to any parent or guardian. Respiratory health is an essential pillar of infant health and respiratory illnesses can be common in infancy. Knowing what is normal for your child and what should be monitored can ease your mind and keep your baby safe.
What is normal?
Infants can often have irregular breathing patterns due to the size of their airways and respiratory system, which have yet to fully develop. Newborn babies take breaths more frequently than adults due to a smaller lung capacity, averaging between 30-60 breaths per minute compared to an adult who averages between 12-20. Breathing issues are common within the first 6 months of life, but breathing should normalize after 1 year.
Parents and guardians should also know what is normal for their baby so they can also recognize what’s out of the ordinary if an issue should arise. Be aware of any noises your baby may make while they sleep including coughing, whistling, or snoring which could signal mucus in your baby’s airways or a virus, like the common cold or bronchitis.
Common infant respiratory illness
Asthma, sleep apnea, the common cold and the flu are all illnesses that are easy for infants to catch, and should be taken seriously at this early stage of development. Keeping up to date on vaccinations and immunizations can help prevent your baby from contracting a dangerous illness, but treating these common illnesses is different for babies than for older children and adults.
- The Common Cold – It’s ordinary for infants to be exposed to the common cold early in life. A cold should not be too serious for your baby, but can develop into more severe issues if not dealt with correctly. Caretakers and guardians should keep a child’s nasal passages clean using an aspirator and clean their face to prevent any skin irritation. If the symptoms become persistent, you should seek a doctor for further treatment.
- The Flu – For any child under the age of two, influenza can be serious and parents should be advised by a doctor for treatment. Ibuprofen is a fever reducer and can be used as directed on the package. Annual flu shots can help prevent the flu and should be given to children at least 6 months old and older.
- Bronchiolitis – Caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), bronchiolitis is a viral lung infection that causes airways to swell. Again, it is common among younger children to come down with the virus, but it is important to contact a doctor and stay on top of their rest and treatment. A doctor may prescribe medication, or advise the use of ibuprofen or acetaminophen. At home, parents can use a humidifier filled with warm water or saline nose drops to clear mucus-filled passageways.
Creating a Safe Environment
In infancy, children will spend many hours in the home, and making sure that their space is safe is vital for their health. When it comes to respiratory health, there are products to avoid and precautions to take that can set your baby up for a healthy present and future. It may seem obvious, but to avoid spreading germs parents and caregivers should always keep their hands clean and keep their own vaccinations up to date.
Controlling indoor air pollution for small children is also crucial for infant health, and bad air quality can lead to issues like coughing, wheezing, and asthma. Investing in organic products can reduce the levels of volatile gasses that are naturally given off by paints and furniture. Bedding should be washed regularly and a child’s bedroom or playroom should be vacuumed on a weekly basis as well, especially if there are pets in the house. Pets can leave hair and dander which can aggravate allergies and asthma. To control air quality further, buy an air purifier that can help children sleep soundly and regulate toxic particles in the air.
You should also be cognizant of what types of toxins are present in your home and your child’s room or nursery. Toxic materials can be present in places we might not normally think of, so being aware of what ingredients are in soaps, aerosol sprays, and children’s toys could make a big difference. Many toxins can even be invisible and odorless and still have an effect on respiratory health.
Chemicals such as formaldehyde and xylene are known carcinogens and can be found in many air fresheners and sprays. Asbestos is another carcinogen that causes mesothelioma cancer and lung cancer that is not banned in the United States and is still used in a variety of products. Even recently, asbestos was found in children’s crayons and has previously been found in children’s cosmetics and makeup. As infants grow and learn, they put their hands and mouths on everything, so keeping toxic materials out of their way is the best method to know they aren’t inhaling or ingesting anything they shouldn’t.
As your child grows and develops, their body with only become stronger and more apt to fight bacteria and sickness. During this process, there are so many ways to ensure that the environment is working for a child’s growth and setting them up for lifelong health. So, whether you are decorating a nursery or picking out furniture for your home, seek out products that leave toxins at the door and keep the entire family breathing easy.