Air Quality and Your Child's Health

Invest in Halton

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 airqualityontario.com. 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 airqualityontario.com 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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