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Your Child and Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality in schools has been discussed in the media, in particular problems associated with mould. The following is meant to assist parents in knowing if their children are at risk, and what to do about it if they are.

Why children are more at risk when exposed to poor indoor air quality

There are many reasons why children, particularly younger ones, are more susceptible to indoor air quality problems. Here are a few:

  • their brains are still growing
  • their immune systems are immature until age 10 to 12
  • they have smaller bodies and relatively greater lung capacities so toxic effects are greater
  • hormonal changes and growth spurts can affect immune responses
  • the symptoms of health problems related to indoor air quality are similar to childhood diseases and so often go undetected and not addressed
  • smaller children breathe through their mouths
  • they have higher respiratory, pulse, and metabolic rates

Symptoms related to poor indoor air quality

Children's complaints can go unnoticed because so many symptoms related to indoor air qualtiy are similar to those of childhood diseases and ailments. Here's a list of symptoms to watch for and then how to assess whether they may be caused by indoor air quality.

  • stuffed nose
  • cough
  • headaches
  • rashes
  • runny and/or itchy eyes
  • fatigue
  • joint pain
  • allergies
  • palpitations
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea

How to tell if your child is a victim of poor indoor air quality

To be absolutely sure that your child's symptoms are not an indication of something more serious, you should of course seek medical advice. However, often the symptoms are so much like those of just flu or a cold, parents are unsure whether to bother a nurse or doctor. Here are some questions to ask yourself. If the answers are "Yes" then your child may be suffering from exposure to something in the indoor environment at school.

  1. Do the symptoms clear up overnight or over weekends when away from school?
  2. Do the symptoms reappear when back at school?
  3. Are the symptoms persistent?
  4. Are other children or staff at school experiencing similar symptoms? (If they aren't, it does not necessarily mean there's no indoor air problem as people react in different ways. Many remain unaffected by indoor air quality that makes another person very sick.)

What to do if you suspect indoor air quality is a problem at your child's school

It's important for parents to notify the school immediately if you suspect there's an indoor air quality problem. The principal can then investigate whether other children are similarly affected, whether teachers and support staff are similarly affected, and can go to the school's health and safety committee to begin inspecting for air quality problems. It's also important to investigate and find out the causes of any indoor air quality problems so that your child and others can be treated appropriately by medical practitioners.

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