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Asthma and Wildfire Smoke

For people caring for children with asthma or managing asthma themselves, the summer season presents a unique set of challenges, among them an increase in particulate pollution, especially in areas that may be impacted be wildfire smoke. "Fine" particulate matter, as 2.5 PM is referred to by health agencies and pollution experts, possesses one attribute that makes it particularly dangerous. These particulates, and whatever microscopic toxins they may be carrying with them, don’t just penetrate deep into our lungs… they are also small enough to pass directly into the bloodstream.

Asthmatics and children are both considered “sensitive groups” when it comes to air pollution. This means the threshold at which you begin to experience adverse health effects like reduced lung function, asthma attacks, wheezing and coughing, etc., is lower than it would be for a healthy adult.

For caregivers of asthmatic children, or people who are asthmatic themselves, and especially for people who live on the West Coast or in a wildfire-prone area, I’d like to share some resources that can help you track and manage your or your child’s exposure to particulate pollution. The first is a free tool that shows you whether your local air quality is safe for members of sensitive groups. There are several air quality lookup tools, but this tool is unique in that it’s actually designed with sensitive groups like asthmatics in mind. (

There’s also a free service that will track your local air quality conditions, and send you a SMS alert when the air quality is forecast to reach unsafe levels. This can also be customized for children and asthmatics. (

The company also offers a paid service that will send pollution mask filters whenever the air quality is forecast to be unhealthy due to wildfire smoke or other causes. (

Hopefully this info is helpful. To end with a personal story, I live in Seattle and when we got hit with wildfire smoke last summer, my first clue the air was unhealthy was this feeling like I was having a heart attack. Because of this, I think it’s important to have advance notice to be able to prepare for these kinds of events by either staying inside, or wearing a pollution mask if you’re going outdoors.

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