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Young children more sensitive to air pollution


Young children among group of those sensitive to air pollution
Young children among group of those sensitive to air pollution

Staff writers

March 25, 2013 — Several factors make young children more sensitive to air pollution. Find out how to keep your child safe when air quality is poor.

Air quality can be affected by things like forest fires
Air quality can be affected by things like forest fires

In most Canadian cities, air quality events such as smog tend to occur most frequently in the summer months.

According to experts however, air quality can be affected by a number of factors including forest fires and residential wood burning and can occur all year round. 

As a result, it's important to check the Air Quality Health Index often especially if you, or someone you take care of, is more sensitive to air pollution.

"Young children are included in the sensitive groups because on a per-body-weight basis they tend to inhale relatively more air than adults, and they spend more time being physically active outdoors," says Christina Daly with Health Canada. "Their young defence systems make them more susceptible to air pollution."

Daly adds that children with asthma and other respiratory disease will be more sensitive to the adverse health effects of air pollution.

"Children with asthma may experience worsening of their symptoms, including wheezing, cough and shortness of breath."

Experts at Health Canada say it's important to pay attention to any symptoms and take a break if needed
Experts at Health Canada say it's important to pay attention to any symptoms and take a break if needed

Even otherwise healthy young children can experience symptoms like cough and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

While a healthy, active and outdoor lifestyle is very important for children, experts say it's important to pay close attention to any symptoms and simply "listen to your body." 

"If the child is experiencing shortness of breath or wheezing, it might be wise to take a break, or slow down until the symptoms subside," says Daly. 

You can check your local AQHI forecast and plan ahead. You can also find your own risk level to avoid taking any chances. 

"If the numbers are in the high to very high range, you may want to consider rescheduling strenuous outdoor activity. If numbers are in the low to moderate range, most people can enjoy regular outdoor activity," Daly adds.

Common signs that tell you if you might be sensitive to air pollution: 

  • Irritated eyes.
  • Increased mucus production in the nose or throat.
  • Coughing.
  • Difficulty breathing especially during exercise.

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