Air pollution and outdoor activities with young children

Smog and particulate matter (such as pollen, soot, and dust) are pollution problems that affect many regions of the United States. Children's lungs are especially sensitive to the harmful effects of air pollution because they breathe rapidly and inhale a high concentration of pollution relative to their weight.

Use care when taking your young child outdoors, especially for physical activities. When children exercise, they breathe more heavily than normal; in addition, they breathe more through their mouths than their noses. This allows pollution to be inhaled more deeply into the lungs where it can cause permanent damage.

  • Do not take your child out when the air quality index is 100 or above. This index is often reported in the newspaper and on local radio and televisions stations. If this is not available, look for your state Division of Environmental Quality in the local phone book.
  • Go early in the morning in the summer and on days where smog may develop. On days that air is stagnant and temperatures reach over 90°F (32.2°C), smog levels usually peak in mid- to late afternoon.
  • Stay away from areas with heavy traffic.

Last Updated: December 3, 2008

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