Being a parent can sometimes be a back-breaking job, but most parents also have moments when they feel thankful, even for seemingly insignificant good fortunes. Even then, there are several everyday things we take for granted that have actually helped our children’s lives tremendously. Here are some scientific advancements that have changed the way we live for the better:
Curbing spina bifida: This major birth defect is avoided in fetuses by taking folic acid before and during pregnancy. However, if you don’t know you are carrying a baby you are unlikely to start on this. That’s why cereals (rice, bread, pasta) were fortified with folic acid in the 1990s in the US to make sure women got the nutrients for their baby’s needs. Women in India who regularly eat lentils (dal), okra (bhindi), spinach, papaya or peanuts will also get folate, the natural form of folic acid.
Curing infant jaundice: Some babies develop jaundice when they are born. Jaundice is caused because of excess bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment made by the liver that can get into the blood. A bad case of jaundice can cause permanent brain damage. However, these days it is treated easily with phototherapy, where a child is exposed to blue light. The discovery came about in the ’50s when a test tube of jaundiced blood from a baby was placed near a window, exposing it to sunlight. It was then noted that the levels of bilirubin were lowered in that sample of blood. Soon the connection was made between the blue part of sunlight’s visible spectrum and a chemical reaction that breaks down bilirubin into a form the body can expel.
Vaccines: Experts realised in the 1700s that European milkmaids were unlikely to catch smallpox, a serious and often deadly disease. They came to the conclusion that because many of them caught the milder variant of the disease, cowpox, from cows, they were immune to the often-fatal small pox. Thanks to Edward Jenner, who managed to inject people with cowpox to hence stave off small pox, we now have vaccines against many potentially-severe diseases.
Car seats: It was in the ’60s that a furniture store owner invented a child seat for the car, meant to protect against harm in case of accidents. The seat was a metal piece of equipment which was meant to hold a child securely between front bucket seats. Today, with advanced technology, thousands of children’s lives are saved because of car seats.
Today, in eery part of the world, fewer children die than ever before due to illnesses and accidents. Of course, progress is varied and some countries or areas have made more progress than others, but progress is being made. Let us all be thankful.