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By: Colleen A. Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics
“Images and news reports of tear gas being used on children and families seeking asylum at our border have stunned and shaken pediatricians just as they have so many others across the country. Our objection to this type of treatment of children and their parents is grounded in our own policy:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all immigrant children and families seeking safe haven are treated with dignity and respect to protect their health and well-being. Children who are displaced and fleeing violence should be given special protection and humanitarian assistance and allowed to petition for asylum. The use of tear gas on children—including infants and toddlers in diapers— goes against evidence-based recommendations, and threatens their short and long-term health.
“Children are uniquely vulnerable to physiological effects of chemical agents. A child's smaller size, more frequent number of breaths per minute and limited cardiovascular stress response compared to adults magnifies the harm of agents such as tear gas.
“Many of these children are fleeing conditions that threaten their health and safety; they have taken harrowing journeys to seek refuge in our country. Our government must take extra precautions when it comes to children. We must make every effort not to retraumatize them.
“Immigrant children are still children, and they deserve our compassion and assistance. We will continue to speak out against their inhumane treatment and advocate for their safety.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds