Air pollution may increase kids’ risk of getting sick

Taking steps to avoid exposing your children to high levels of air pollution could leave them less susceptible to respiratory infections, according to the author of a new study.

Researchers studied more than 146,000 people treated for respiratory infections over a 17-year period at hospitals and medical clinics in a pollution-prone area of Utah. Most of the patients were children under age 2. The scientists also collected information on fluctuations in air quality in the area during that time.

The study authors noticed that, when air pollution levels worsened, the number of people treated for serious respiratory infections increased.


Young children were especially vulnerable to infections, the authors wrote in the study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. These infections included respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – a common illness that causes cold-like symptoms and can become serious for babies – and bronchiolitis, a lung infection.

Obviously, if you live in a polluted area, it’s not that easy to leave. But lead study author Benjamin Horne of the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute told the New York Times there are ways to reduce the negative health effects of air pollution.

When air pollution levels are high, Horne recommended avoiding idling cars, staying at a distance from highways, and staying indoors or going out in the early morning when air pollution tends to be lower.

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