Parents — especially mothers — in Delhi are a hassled lot. Not only are they themselves having to bear the brunt of poor air quality, but are also trying their best to ensure that their children’s health doesn’t suffer. With schools shut in the national capital due to the current health emergency, children are cooped up at home. SheThePeople.TV asked some Delhi moms how they are dealing with the problem.

Red eyes, difficulty breathing

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, an international publishing consultant, said she is having difficulty in breathing and a strange headache. Her chest feels as if someone is pressing on it and eyes are smarting and red. As far as her seven-year-old daughter is concerned, “She did not have a cold but since yesterday, one week of smog. And her nose is dripping. There is a lot of mucous build-up. Today, school is shut. It will reopen on Tuesday but late morning, so that it’s not difficult for children to commute in the blinding smog.”

She says that her child’s school has been good with taking measures like installing air purifiers. “The primary school building already has flowerbeds running through the corridors with green leafy plants selected specifically with higher oxygen build-up.”

Masks on, no outdoor play

Shweta Baxi, a professional and mother of a 12-year-old, said, “I am facing difficulty in breathing. Half of my family is suffering from sore throat. I have a new baby coming tomorrow, so we are extremely worried. When I return home in the evening, I am usually coughing badly.”

“We’ve got masks for all adults. Not sending kid to school at all (this change of school timings from 9-3.30 was a useless move). No playing outdoors for my children also,” she added.

Entertaining kids a tall task

With children sitting at home, mothers are also trying to keep their minds away from the fact that they cannot go out to play. Parks are empty and roads devoid of street cricket, badminton and other such sports. Hence, the burden of keeping children entertained falls on the mothers who are finding it difficult.

Noida-based Nazia Erum said that she is locked up at home with her daughter since a week. “My kid was prematurely born. So I always need to be cautious for her lungs.”

“Being locked in with a 3-yr-old has its own challenges. Often I find her standing at the glass doors, looking out at the smogged out world. The moment itself is dystopic. We have already reached there. All around us almost every kid I know is with red eyes, cough or fever and adults with headaches,” – Nazia Erum

Sujata Parashar, author and mother of 12-year-old, says, “My child is cooped up inside the house. He is unable to go for even his badminton coaching which is open (and happens indoors). We are too scared to send our children out. Children are missing out on their studies and annual day function prep which are back-to-back and certainly would put a lot of pressure on them as soon as schools reopen.”

Psychologically, children feel that Delhi isn’t a good city to live in, says Sujata Parashar

“His father even suggested sending him to Singapore on a temporary basis,” added Sujata.

Bigger problem for working moms

It is even more difficult for working mothers who have to go out and leave children behind at home unsupervised. One such professional, Priyadarshini Narendra, who is mother of a 3-year-old, said, “No school for my children. I’m at work so no one to supervise the kids all day. Apart from the health concerns, there’s no way to keep the kids physically active so they’re climbing the walls. We’re foregoing many activities that involve commuting to avoid the toxic air and poor visibility.”

Kavita Tyagi, a resident of Faridabad and mother of an eight-year-old, said, “My child’s coughing is growing by the day. It also has a lot to do with weather change but we cannot deny the percentage of it happening because of air pollution. I live in Faridabad, an industrial town, so anyway we deal with a lot of dust in the air. And this level of decreasing air quality has only added to the suffering.”

Lung disorders irreversible: 2002 survey

Way back in 2002, a top cancer institute had conducted a survey with 11,000 schoolchildren in Delhi for three years. These children came from 36 schools, each within 3 km of a pollution-tracking station.

Kolkata-based Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) did the research with children in the age group of four and 17 years. They found that children within this age group in Delhi are growing up with irreversible lung disorders than any other parts of the country. In terms of numbers, the figures were twice to four times as bad.

“It is… unlikely that the deficit in lung function at the age of 17 years that has been found in a large number of schoolchildren of Delhi will be reversed as they complete the transition into adulthood,” concluded the CNCI study, Indian Express reported

According to the report, blood samples of 5,718 students showed that 43.5% suffered from “poor or restrictive lungs”.

Rashmi Menon, editor and mother of a 4-year-old who has asthma, said the challenge is to just BREATHE. “My daughter has asthma and I am really worried. But fortunately, she’s fine till now. With the help of her paediatrician, we’ve been able to give her precautionary treatment,” added Rashmi.

As precautionary measures, Rashmi is not letting her daughter play outside. She is also calling her friends home so that she doesn’t get bored. “Schools are closed till Monday. We wear masks whenever we step outside.”

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Picture Credit: Indiatimes

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