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Air Quality and Your Child's Health

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Frequently asked questions about air quality and your child’s health

How does air pollution affect my child’s health?

Children and infants are at greater risk than adults for many reasons:

  • Infants and children’s bodies, lungs, and immune systems are still developing.
  • Children have a faster breathing rate than adults and inhale more air pollutants (per body weight) than adults do.
  • Intense exercising means they breathe heavier.
  • Children breathe through their mouths more (the nose can filter particulates from reaching the lungs, the mouth cannot).
  • Air pollution increases a child’s risk of getting sick by reducing the respiratory system’s ability to fight infection and remove foreign particles.

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Can air pollution affect asthma and allergies?

Air pollution can:

  • make asthma symptoms worse
  • increase respiratory infections
  • decrease lung function
  • make children more sensitive to allergens

Your child’s asthma condition may need to be managed more closely due to air pollution. Consult your local health care provider on this matter.

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What about heat and humidity?

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What can I do to reduce my child’s exposure during air quality advisories?

  • Refer to the media (TV, newspaper, radio) and monitor smog/heat conditions.
  • Monitor air quality and smog at Sign up to be notified of poor air quality days. You can also obtain daily air quality readings by phone at 1-800-387-7768.
  • During air quality advisories and heat warnings, reschedule outdoor activities, if possible.
  • If children must be outside, try scheduling strenuous activities for early morning.
  • Avoid peak rush hour times and high traffic areas (when pollution levels are highest).
  • Plan activities that can be indoors in a cool, well-ventilated area.
  • Know your child’s health. If your child has asthma or other respiratory conditions, monitor the situation with your doctor and discuss the appropriate precautions and medical interventions.
  • If your child’s condition worsens during a smog episode, consult your doctor. In an emergency, call 911, or go to the nearest hospital.

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What can my child care centre do?

  • Sign up at to receive alerts.
  • Develop and implement a protocol that reduces idling of vehicles (refer to and work with local anti-idling bylaws).
  • Consider rescheduling outdoor activities to early morning.
  • Plan activities that promote walking instead of vehicle-oriented outings.
  • Develop a procedure for communicating alerts to staff, parents, and children.
  • Ensure children get adequate rest breaks when it is very hot/smoggy.
  • Ensure children drink lots of fluids (water and natural fruit juices) when it is hot.
  • Pay close attention to asthmatic children during smog/heat alerts and keep medication close by in the event of breathing difficulties.
  • Encourage staff to use public transit and carpooling options.

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