Adults and children enjoy a smokey day at the beach in Penticton on Aug. 23, 2018. Photo by Jordyn Thomson | Penticton Western News.

How parents can protect their kids from the smoke

Developing lungs more at risk with high air quality index

Parents and expectant mothers are advised to exercise caution when facing the smoky skies in the Okanagan.

Dr. Karin Goodison, medical health officer with Interior Health, said children and pregnant women are more at risk of suffering negative side-effects from the smoke due to lung immaturity.

“Really it has to do with lung development, so infants would be at the highest risk. Then as their lungs develop and the child gets larger, that risk will decrease,” said Goodison. “The relative size of the lungs in children and the active lung development makes them more at risk.”

Essentially, smoke inhalation can irritate a person’s lungs and affect the amount of oxygen entering their blood. Common symptoms from smoke inhalation include irritated eyes, sore throat, fatigue, coughing, etc.

RELATED: Air quality rating at high risk for Okanagan-Shuswap

And while many people’s first inclination is to reach for a mask to protect their children when venturing outside, Goodison warns that this solution has its faults.

“Face masks are only good if the right kind is used and if they’re fitted properly. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to fit a child with a proper face mask,” said Goodison.

Goodison says the best defence against smoke inhalation is staying indoors when the air quality index is high.

She also urges people to consider installing a high efficiency particulate air filter in their homes.

“With children, when the air quality is listed at below seven you can probably resume your normal activities. When it is between seven and 10, they should avoid vigorous activity,” said Goodison.

RELATED: App converts B.C. air quality to cigarettes smoked

Children and caretakers at Kiddie Hall Childcare Inc. have had to adjust their daily schedules the past few weeks as the air quality index ventured above seven and higher.

“It’s definitely making it difficult to divide our days without outside playtime, since we can’t go outside all the time,” said Heather Milanovic, owner of Kiddie Hall.

“We basically have to be very inventive, dividing into groups and stations, and try to do as much physical activity inside (as possible).”

As residents of B.C. continue to contemplate whether smoke-filled summers will be the new normal for the province going forward, parents and expecting mothers are reminded to pay attention to symptoms and be vigilant.

If symptoms due to smoke inhalation become severe, it is recommended to seek medical help.

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter


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