Cooking gas (LPG) linked to breathing problems in children in a Nairobi study

By Gatonye Gathura

The domestic cooking gas (LPG) has been linked to breathing problems in children in a study at Mbagathi District Hospital, Nairobi.

Children in households where gas is the main cooking energy the study says are three times more likely to have their tonsil like organs called adenoids enlarged.

This enlargement, can lead to frequent flu, ear infections, sinusitis, coughs, snoring, breathing through the mouth and nasal congestion which collectively are signs of a medical condition called adenoid hypertrophy.

The study coordinated by Dr Anne Muthoni Pertet of Gluk University had studied 112 children aged below six years attending Mbagathi District Hospital.

About a third of the participating children had enlarged adenoids while the others acted as a control, says the study appearing in the July – August issue of the International Journal of Contemporary Pediatrics.

Adenoid hypertrophy, the report shows constitutes the highest cause of hospital visits when compared to the other ear, nose, and throat (ENT) conditions.

“In 2014, there were 228 new cases of adenoid hypertrophy and 140 revisits indicating more than 50 per cent revisits,” says the study.

In the same period, the authors including Anne Senewa, an ENT clinical officer at the hospital say only 44 patients were treated for acute ear infections, 519 patients were treated for tonsillitis with 68 revisits.

Most of the patients attending the Mbagathi hospital the report indicates come from the nearby Kibera slums.

In the slums, the study says kerosene is the predominant cooking option, at 90 per cent, followed by charcoal at 11 per cent while only three per cent of the households used LPG for cooking.  Electricity was rarely used for cooking.

Among the study children about nine per cent came from households using kerosene, 14.5 per cent from homes using charcoal, firewood, 29 per cent and gas at 19.

The study carried out with approval from the hospital found children from households using gas or charcoal for cooking at a high risk of having enlarged adenoids.

“Children in households where gas was predominantly used for cooking were three times more likely to have enlarged adenoids,” says the study.

LPG the authors explain because of its composition tends to settle in the household at human levels, becoming an irritant especially to small children.

The results suggest that high exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from the cooking gas could increase the risk of adenoid hypertrophy by up to three times compared to other energy options.

Normally the authors say parents with children who report to the doctor for adenoid hypertrophy are advised to use cooking gas as a preventive measure.

“Now its association with adenoid hypertrophy raises debate on whether it is the better cooking fuel option as advised in the ear, nose and throat clinic,” say the authors

They recommend more and larger studies to help come up with interventions that can be used for policy change concerning the use of household fuels.

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