Air quality and children's health

Why should children learn about the AQHI?

Infants and children are especially susceptible to the health effects of air pollution.  Their bodies are still growing and their lungs are developing.  Children also have greater exposure to air pollution because they breathe in more air per kilogram of body weight and they spend more time being active outdoors.  Children with asthma or other respiratory conditions are more likely to be affected. 

Family outside

Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks and cause respiratory symptoms like coughing and throat irritation even in healthy children. 

Prevention Strategies

  • Child playing
    Be aware of the quality of the air your family breathes year-round.  Check your Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) levels and forecast values often throughout the day. 
  • If your child experiences symptoms, you can keep track of AQHI readings and take note of how your child feels on these days.  By establishing your child’s health response to the index readings, you can learn to ‘calibrate’ at what level your child starts to experience symptoms.
  • When your child is experiencing symptoms, choose activities that reduces exposure to air pollution.
  • Spend time educating your child on how to read the AQHI.
    • Teach your children how the AQHI colours correspond to the various health risk categories and what they mean to their health (i.e. Low 1-3, Moderate 4-6, High 7-10 and Very High, Above 10).

      AQHI colour scale and categories
  • By using and understanding the AQHI, your child can moderate his/her activity to safely play outside.   
  • Keep your children’s outdoor activities as far as possible from busy roadways and other sources of pollution.
  • Take special care that children with asthma have their inhalers with them at all times.
  • Serve as advocates for your children!  Inform other parents, daycare, school and camp officials about the AQHI.
  • Develop an action plan that minimizes exposure to poor air quality.
  • Do your part to improve the air you breathe.

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