Quantcast

How to Protect Your Children From Wildfire Smoke

Health + Wellness
A family wears face masks as they walk through the smoke filled streets after the Thomas wildfire swept through Ventura, California on Dec. 6, 2017. MARK RALSTON / AFP / Getty Images

By Cecilia Sierra-Heredia

We're very careful about what our kids eat, but what about the air they breathe?


During recent summers, children living on the West Coast of Canada have been breathing some of the most polluted air on record. This is due to seasonal wildfires, which have burned through vast zones of North America and affected even larger areas with their smoke.

The polluted air generated by wildfires is responsible for hazy skies, charcoal-like smells and a noticeable spike in people reporting trouble breathing.

The British Columbia government has just declared a state of emergency, as hundreds of fires burn across the province. And the state of California has been under a wildfire "siege" this summer.

Even when smoggy skies and unpleasant odours dissipate fairly quickly, the respiratory problems sparked by these fires can linger and in some cases become a serious, chronic condition.

From asthma to low birth weight

Research makes it clear that air pollution contributes to asthma development and causes asthma attacks.

Asthma is a chronic condition where certain parts of the lungs are seriously irritated and swollen when they're exposed to certain air components like ozone or particulate matter. This inflammation makes children wheeze or cough and have a harder time breathing. An asthma attack can become so severe that the patient needs immediate medical attention to avoid dying of suffocation.

Every child, regardless of how healthy he or she might be, is at a higher risk from the dangers of smog. Children breathe more air relative to their size than adults, inhaling a larger amount of pollutants than their caregivers.

Air pollution affects lung development even in the womb and has been linked to low birth weight and premature births.

The quality of the air your children breath may be harming the development of their respiratory system: Their nose, throat and lungs. The air that children breathe now can cause problems for years to come.

More Likely to Catch Colds

Even if children are not suffering from any respiratory problems, it is important to avoid exposing them to smog.

Air pollution can make children more likely to catch colds or to make colds last longer. Because the body is busy dealing with the inhaled pollutants, the response to virus or bacteria is not as good as it should be.

Just as we avoid exposing kids to too much candy even though it won't rot their teeth or cause diabetes within hours, we must limit the amount of smog our children breathe.

Individuals have little control over wildfires. However, caregivers can do many things to reduce their child's exposure to smog.

Seven Actions You Can Take

1. Monitor the air pollution levels in your community with the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI). AQHI is accessible though news, social media or apps (for iOS and Android).

2. Stay indoors as much as possible and avoid exercising or any intense physical activity outdoors when AQHI indicates dangerous levels.

3. Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your house, or at least in the rooms where you spend most of your time. If you buy a portable one, you can place it in the living room throughout the day and then move it to your children's sleeping area at night.

4. If you cannot afford the purchase of a HEPA filter (or the subsequent increase in your power bill), try to spend time in indoor community spaces such as libraries, malls or community centers.

5. Avoid smoking inside your house. This is important every day, but it becomes especially relevant when smog levels are already off the charts.

6. If your child has been diagnosed with allergies or asthma, schedule a visit with their pediatrician before the wildfire season starts so that you can update their prescriptions and stock up on their medications.

7. Be observant of symptoms like wheezing, coughs or labored breathing, and any verbal complaints your child expresses. Take them to a walk-in clinic or an emergency department if necessary.

Current predictions are that we will experience wildfires more often, but the evidence indicates that limiting how much smog we breathe can prevent greater damage to our lungs—and a healthier and cleaner future for you and your children.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.

Related Articles Around the Web
    From Your Site Articles

    EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

    Pick one of these nine activism styles, and you can start making change. YES! Illustrations by Delphine Lee

    By Cathy Brown

    Most of us have heard about UN researchers warning that we need to make dramatic changes in the next 12 years to limit our risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty caused by climate change. Report after report about a bleak climate future can leave people in despair.

    Read More Show Less
    Jamie Grill Photography / Getty Images

    Losing weight, improving heart health and decreasing your chances for metabolic diseases like diabetes may be as simple as cutting back on a handful of Oreos or saying no to a side of fries, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

    Read More Show Less
    Sponsored
    Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

    EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

    Read More Show Less
    A boy gives an impromptu speech about him not wanting to die in the next 10 years during the protest on July 15. The Scottish wing of the Extinction Rebellion environmental group of Scotland locked down Glasgow's Trongate for 12 hours in protest of climate change. Stewart Kirby / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

    It's important to remember that one person can make a difference. From teenagers to world-renowned scientists, individuals are inspiring positive shifts around the world. Maybe you won't become a hard-core activist, but this list of people below can inspire simple ways to kickstart better habits. Here are seven people advocating for a better planet.

    Read More Show Less
    A group of wind turbines in a field in Banffshire, Northeast Scotland. Universal Images Group / Getty Images

    Scotland produced enough power from wind turbines in the first half of 2019, that it could power Scotland twice over. Put another way, it's enough energy to power all of Scotland and most of Northern England, according to the BBC — an impressive step for the United Kingdom, which pledged to be carbon neutral in 30 years.

    Read More Show Less
    Sponsored
    Beekeeper Jeff Anderson works with members of his family in this photo from 2014. He once employed all of his adult children but can no longer afford to do so. CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE

    By Jessica A. Knoblauch

    It's been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.

    Read More Show Less

    tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

    By Rachel Licker

    As a new mom, I've had to think about heat safety in many new ways since pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat.

    Read More Show Less
    Pexels

    By Kris Gunnars, BSc

    It's easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which aren't.

    Read More Show Less