Many Marylanders stepped outside their homes today into an orange-tinted haze that smells far less like citrus and far more like sulfur.

Smoke caused by Canadian wildfires that began erupting in early May has quickly drifted south. It first cast an ominous shroud over New York City, and quickly spread to other locales throughout the Northeast, including Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas.

Many people, some masked, some not, have gone about their daily routines, regardless – heads down and heading into the abyss. But don’t be fooled by the foot traffic. Not only was the resulting stench and smoke deemed unhealthy by the National Weather Service, but the poor air quality will undoubtedly affect everyone differently – and particularly those with chronic respiratory illness.

The tricky part, unfortunately, is that many parents may not know their child has a chronic respiratory illness because they have never been diagnosed. These kids may also be considered “atopic.” Atopy affects approximately 20% of the population and refers to an overactive inflammatory response that can manifest as any number of ailments, including asthma, eczema, and more.

Children who feel as though they are constantly “targeted” by mosquitos may very well be atopic. Those who seem to catch viruses and bugs more frequently than their families may be atopic. Others with lingering coughs that they can’t quite shake… well, you get the picture.

The bottom line – during days of poor and potentially hazardous air quality, it is better to be safe than sorry, particularly if you believe you or your child may have a heightened inflammatory response.

  • Stay informed: Parents should keep track of air quality indexes provided by local authorities and other reliable sources. Various websites, smartphone apps, and even wearable devices can provide real-time air quality data that help you understand air quality and its potential dangers and take necessary precautions.
  • Limit outdoor activities: During periods of poor air quality, parents should limit the time children spend outdoors, especially during peak pollution hours – and particularly for kids with chronic respiratory illnesses. Pollutants are generally more concentrated early in the morning and in the evening. If your family must go outside, try to schedule your activities when pollution levels are relatively lower. Additionally, kids should avoid exercising or engaging in strenuous play outdoors, as it can lead to deeper inhalation of pollutants.
  • Create a clean indoor environment: Parents: keep windows and doors closed to prevent polluted air from entering your home. Use high-efficiency air filters in air conditioning units or consider investing in a portable air purifier with a HEPA filter. This will help remove particles and improve the overall air quality indoors.
  • Mask up: Wearing a high-quality protective mask can provide additional filtration and help reduce inhalation of harmful particles. Look for masks that are specifically designed to filter out fine particles, such as N95 or N99 respirators. It’s essential to ensure a proper fit and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for usage and replacement.
  • Stay hydrated: As mentioned, air pollution can cause irritation in the respiratory system, and staying hydrated can help alleviate some of these symptoms. Kids should drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep respiratory tracts moist and promote overall well-being. Proper hydration supports the body’s natural defenses against pollutants.
  • Be aware of your child’s symptoms: If you believe that your child may be atopic and/or have a chronic respiratory illness, consult with a professional.

At Culex Wellness, we know when different people catch the same illness, they do not necessarily experience the same symptoms. While illness is distributed somewhat evenly across the population, its symptoms disproportionately affect a select few. Approximately 1 in 5 patients are considered “highly sensitive” and are far more likely to have troublesome symptoms. They may also experience symptoms for which they receive a wide variety of diagnoses – or no diagnosis at all.

Culex Wellness can help you and your child clear the air, so to speak, about inflammation and atopy. Reach out to our team to learn more.