Babies lungs are born ready to breathe, unless they are premature, but they still have to grow and develop a lot. Young lungs are very different to fully grown adult lungs, which is why you may be referred to a children’s respiratory specialist if you notice any issues.
The first breath that your child takes when he or she is born initiates big changes in the lungs. For the first time, they will fill with air rather than fluid. The lungs will take over from the umbilical cord and start supplying all the oxygen your baby needs.
Over the next few years, your child’s lungs will continue to develop. The lungs are filled with air sacs or alveoli. At birth, your baby has about 60 million of these air sacs, but they will have 300 million by the time they are fully grown. The amount of air your child’s lungs can hold will also increase. A lot of this growth happens in the first few years, but your children’s respiratory specialist will expect to see the lungs continuing to grow throughout childhood.
Protecting Children’s Lungs
You can help your child’s lungs to stay healthy as they grow by:
- Preventing anyone from smoking near your child. You should also ban smoking from your home or car as the chemicals that harm children’s lungs can hang around for a few hours.
- Avoiding air pollution as much as possible, by taking quieter roads and choosing outdoor play areas that are set back from the street. Just a small distance can make a big difference to the air your child is breathing.
- Making sure your child enjoys a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
It is also important to be aware of any symptoms that could be signs of asthma, lung infections or other issues. Talk to your GP or see a children’s respiratory specialist if you’re concerned about your child’s lungs.