Now that fire season has started, there is a chance that the air quality in your area may be less than optimal in the coming months. This can be especially harmful to children with asthma or other chronic sino-pulmonary conditions. Here are some tips for minimizing the impact of poor air quality on children.

  1. Monitor your local Air Quality Index (AQI), especially if it is trending upwards. A value greater than 100 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.
  2. Stay indoors whenever possible and keep the windows closed.
  3. Use high-efficiency particle absorption (HEPA) air filters. If this is not possible, add a high-efficiency filter to your central air conditioner and keep it on recirculate.
  4. If your child has asthma, monitor their symptoms carefully and use their Asthma Action Plan if necessary.
  5. Wear a close-fitting N95 mask when outdoors.
  6. Avoid all outdoor exercise, especially if the AQI exceeds 100 or is rising.
  7. Do not smoke indoors or use candles or incense and minimize your use of gas ranges.

If your child has asthma and is coughing or experiencing throat irritation, they should initiate their rescue therapy. Usually this consists of two to four puffs of albuterol with their spacer every four hours. If this is not helping, please proceed to the red zone and contact a primary care provider or go to the emergency department if your child is having difficulty breathing.


Shilpa Patel Shilpa Patel, MD, MPH, is the medical director for the Improving Pediatric Asthma Care (IMPACT) DC Asthma Clinic and an attending physician in the Children's National Emergency Department.
Stephen Teach Stephen J. Teach, MD, MPH, is the Associate Dean for Pediatric Academic Affairs and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences; and Director and Principal Investigator of IMPACT DC.

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