As the weather heats up and Washington State prepares for another long, dry summer, wildfire season is just around the corner. In recent years, smoke from fires on the Olympic Peninsula, Cascades, Eastern Washington and British Columbia have all blanketed large portions of the state for days on end, making it increasingly important for parents to understand the potential risks and health hazards of exposing your child to this smoke. As you go about your daily schedule and send your child to preschool or daycare, keep these four points in mind to ensure you make it through wildfire season without incident.
Understanding the Risk to Your Child's Lungs
Children's lungs are still developing, and they need more air per pound of body weight than adults. Infants, for example, take in an estimated 35 times more air than adults, with the discrepancy gradually decreasing as you child reaches maturity. This leaves your child's system especially vulnerable to air pollutants, particularly if he or she also suffers from a respiratory or allergic condition such as asthma. Severe reactions to smoke can lead to difficulty breathing and even serious illnesses such as bronchitis.
Assessing the Daily Risk of Wildfire Smoke in Your Area
During wildfire season, smoke conditions can vary considerably depending on wind direction and the current severity of ongoing fires. There are a number of tools online that seek to provide real-time information on wildfire-related air quality in the state, such as this one using data compiled by county, state, federal and tribal authorities. If your child is vulnerable to smoke in the air, knowing what to expect on any given day can help you formulate a plan and take action accordingly.
Protecting Your Child While Indoors and Outdoors
Most respiratory masks designed to filter wildfire smoke are too large to seal to a child's face, meaning you will need to take other measures to limit your child's exposure. Speak to your child's teacher or daycare administrator about staying inside during lunch and recess, and discourage your child's participation in physical activities while the smoke is thickest. Make sure your child stays hydrated throughout the day to minimize minor symptoms like coughing and stinging eyes.
Communicating With Your Preschool
Whenever you are concerned about the health and safety of your child during his or her time at school, you should reach out to school authorities to learn more about the steps they are taking to protect the children under their charge. This may, for example, include having a spare dose of your child's asthma or allergy medication on hand at all times in case of an attack and keeping all kids inside on the smokiest days. By taking the proper precautions to keep your child indoors and away from unnecessary air pollution, you should be able to weather wildfire season without any unexpected trips to the doctor's office.
For more information, contact Kid's Country Child Care & Learning Center or a similar location.