Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN
The air we breathe has significant effects on our health. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains air pollution can contribute to many adverse health conditions, such as stroke, heart attacks, pneumonia, cancers, and other consequences. Additionally, per the most recent report from the State of Global Air, air pollution may contribute to 20% of infant deaths in their first month.
Air quality also impacts pregnant individuals and can affect the newborn's health before it is born. According to the WHO, mothers exposed to high enough levels of air pollution may experience premature labor and low birth weight or small babies.
The Importance of Air Quality Around Newborns
While the harmful effects of poor air quality on newborns are concerning, a lot can be done to decrease the health risks. Here, we break down how air quality can affect newborns and ways to improve the air quality around your newborn.
Sources of Poor Air Quality Around Newborns
The air around a pregnant individual or newborn can be polluted in several ways. Understanding some of the most common forms of air pollution is essential to make an effective plan to prevent it when possible. Examples of causes of air pollution include, but are not limited to:
- Wildfire smoke
- Motor vehicles
- Burning candles
- Cigarette smoke
- Industrial facilities and factories
Each cause of air pollution releases different pollutants. The American Lung Association describes how the particles come in various sizes, each with its own risk.
Adverse Health Outcomes of Poor Air Quality and Newborns
Regarding particle size, NPR explains that fine particulate matter, also known as PM 2.5, is a type of air pollution that is small enough to get deep into the lungs and even be absorbed into the bloodstream. This can cause inflammation in the mother and issues such as low birth weight in a baby before birth.
In infants, particulate matter in the air contributes to infant mortality. Children exposed to particulate matter may also experience increased hospitalization rates for asthma and increased severity of asthma attacks.
While the impacts of air pollution on infant mortality and respiratory conditions such as asthma are well-known, research is constantly emerging on additional harmful effects. Scientists at CU Boulder examined air pollution on the gut microbiome of infants in the first six months of life. They found that air pollution exposure negatively affected babies' gut microbiome in ways that could increase their risks of developing allergies, obesity, and diabetes.
Managing Air Quality Around Newborns
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to improve the air quality near your newborn. The first step you can take is prevention. For example, if you have a newborn and another heat source in your home, consider not using wood-burning fireplaces. Also, avoid lighting candles in your home and ensure no one smokes.
Other steps to limiting dust and debris in your home’s air include regularly cleaning ductwork and vacuuming with a HEPA filter. You may also consider an air filtration system, especially if you live near a highway or airport or are regularly impacted by wildfire smoke.
Additionally, check the air quality outside before heading out for the day. Many weather apps warn about particulate levels and whether the air is safe for high-risk populations like newborns.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends using higher-rated home heating and cooling filters. They suggest filters with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of at least 13.
And consider houseplants for a fun way to improve the air quality in your home for your newborn! While you want to ensure plants in your home are away from your newborn so they don’t pose a choking hazard, many plants are great at helping reduce toxins from the air.
While an air purifier with a HEPA filter will be your best bet if there is an air quality problem, plants can also remove harmful components from the air and help maintain the air quality in your home. Plus they look nice!
Alleviating Symptoms of Poor Air Quality in Newborns
If it is a poor air quality day and you’re out and about with your newborn, you may notice symptoms. If there are limited measures to improve indoor air quality, you may also see signs of poor air quality in your newborn at home.
Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that poor air quality contributes to asthma symptoms and may also be to blame for year-round runny noses. Of course, irritation to the nasal passages can also come from allergies, such as pollen or mold. Again, an air purifier will help alleviate indoor pollution and allergens. And some plants may also help reduce mold, too.
If your little one struggles with a runny nose, the NozeBot is designed to help clear congestion and get stuffy noses feeling better fast! However, be on the lookout for any respiratory concerns and seek medical care if you notice any difficulty breathing in your child.
Looking for more tips on caring for a newborn? You’ll find these helpful:
- Everything Parents Need to Know About the New FDA-Approved RSV Shot for Babies and Toddlers
- Self-Care Tips For New Moms
- 5 Newborn Tips for Your First Week Home With a Newborn
- Month One: What You Need to Know About Newborn Breathing
- 5 Risks of Kissing a Newborn
There is much to worry about as a new parent, including air quality and your newborn. It is important to recognize what you have control over and use that knowledge to build a healthy environment for your little one.
For example, you can’t help if wildfire smoke pollutes your town. However, you can limit your baby’s outdoor air exposure and set up effective air filtration in your home. Adding a few air-cleaning plants into the mix is also a simple step.
Moving away from a busy highway or nearby airport may also be impractical. But again, air filtration in your home is crucial and something you can take control of. You can also check air quality reports to plan when you go outside with your baby and limit pollutants in your home by not burning candles or using a wood-burning fireplace when feasible.
Tools like the NozeBot can help alleviate immediate discomfort from a runny or congested nose. However, always contact your healthcare provider or seek medical attention if you are concerned about your child’s symptoms.
Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.
The NozeBot makes a BIG difference in relieving congestion
The Nozebot is a battery-powered suction device designed to clear nasal congestion in babies and children.