Enjoy the summer
… but prepare for smoke
With the arrival of summer in our area comes the possibility of outdoor air pollution due to wildfire smoke. It has been an issue for the past two years. Air pollution outside can be particularly harmful to young children, who breathe at a faster rate than adults and tend to be more active outdoors. Child care providers should keep an eye on the air quality outdoors during the summer, paying particular attention when there are reports of wildfires in the region or when the air appears hazy.
Air quality maps and charts use a color coding system to indicate the level of pollution in the air.
Green = Good
Yellow = Moderate
Orange = Unhealthy for sensitive groups (which includes children)
Red = Unhealthy for everyone
Violet = Very unhealthy for everyone
Burgundy = Hazardous for everyone
Child care providers can find air quality estimates by visiting:
- https://ecology.wa.gov/Air-Climate/Air-quality/Smoke-fire and clicking on “Check current air quality conditions” – this website uses the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA), which uses a scale that is more protective than the EPA’s Air Quality Index. The site shows a map of the state. Look at/click on the dot that is closest to your location to get an idea of the air quality.
- https://airnow.gov/ - this is the EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) website. Type in your zip code in the box at the top to get an estimate of current air quality conditions in your area.
- https://www.pscleanair.org/ - the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency website has an easy-to-read chart on their homepage that shows the recommended activity level based on air quality.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) produced a chart for schools to help them decide when to allow children outdoors or engage in physical activity outdoors. This chart is based on the WAQA and can be used as a guide by child care providers as well. Answers to many common questions about smoke from fires can be found on the Washington State DOH website.
The Snohomish Health District has produced a video with information about wildfire smoke and your health. You can view this video on our YouTube channel. The video addresses how to monitor air quality, and explains what to do when air quality becomes poor. (Note: The video does mention using N95 masks; however, masks are not recommended for use with children.)
If you do end up having to stay inside, there are many great indoor physical activity ideas available as Active Play Learning Cards and lesson plans posted on the Snohomish Health District website.