As the winter months approach, air quality in many areas actually deteriorate due to wood burning smoke and pollutants trapped in the cold air. It is also fire season and parts of the western United States experience unhealthy air quality as weather patterns blow in smoke from raging wildfires. The primary pollutant of concern from fires is PM 2.5 which refers to fine inhalable particles with diameters 2.5 micrometers and smaller. Since they are so small they can penetrate deep into the lung and cause harmful effects. Poor air quality is particularly harmful to children since their lungs are still growing. To protect your family, take these steps to minimize the harmful effects of unhealthy air quality.
Stay indoors to minimize smoke exposure. Close all windows, doors, and any other openings. Put your air-conditioner on re-circulate if possible and avoid activities that may add to indoor air contamination, such as cooking with a gas stove. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters or other room air filtration systems that do not generate ozone are recommended.
When in a car, keep windows and vents closed. Turn the air-conditioning to re-circulate.
Do NOT rely on masks to filter contaminants, since masks do not work when not fitted correctly. Smaller sized masks may appear to fit a child's face, but no manufacturers recommend utilizing them for children.
If your children are in an area with bad air quality, take them to an indoor environment with cleaner air, rather than giving them a mask. Humidifiers or breathing through a wet washcloth do not prevent breathing in smoke.
Outdoor activity should be minimized, and athletic and physical education stopped until air quality improves.
Children with chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma, are at increased risk. Children with an increased risk should remain in a clean-air environment and be kept indoors until air quality improves. They should be monitored closely for signs or symptoms of harmful health effects as listed above. If they are showing these symptoms and their usual medications cannot bring them under control, they should be taken to a nearby medical facility, despite the risks of traveling.
Source: healthychildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics