Our hearts go out to the families in Butte County who have been displaced or have lost their homes in the Camp Fire. Just a year ago we were posting this information in response to the fires in Sonoma and Napa County, and we know that many in our community will have firsthand experience with the tragedy of losing a home to fire. Many have lost their lives, their pets, their posessions and the routine of daily life. We are here to support and help you in any way that we can. We'd like to share some specific ways that you can help your children in this scary and difficult time, whether you are directly impacted by the fire or not.
The air quality in the Bay Area has been greatly affected by the smoke from the fires. In our community, kids are being kept inside and sports and practices have been cancelled. Follow the air quality index on the AIRNow website
- when the air quality index (AQI) is in the orange or red zone, you should limit your child's outdoor activities. Because children are more susceptible to pollution in the air, including smoke and particles from the fire, they are more likely to be affected than adults. A short term exposure to smoke and pollution is not likely to cause long term issues, but you and your children may notice some eye and throat irritation, congestion or runny nose and a mild cough.
If your child has asthma or any respiratory issues such as wheezing, prematurity or allergies, they may be more affected than others.
Children with asthma who have been on preventative medications in the past may need to start those medications now in order to prevent wheezing or inflammation in their lungs. If your child has an asthma plan, consider starting their "Yellow Zone" medications, just like you would if they had a cold. Make sure you have their medications on hand and that they aren't expired. Because every child is different, and asthma plans will vary based on your child's history, check with us or your child's regular pediatrician for specific instructions. Remember that starting asthma medications early - when the cough first starts - is better than waiting. Call the office if your child is coughing or having any difficulty with their breathing. Of course, if they are having a hard time catching their breath or in any distress, call 911 or visit the ER.
For more information about air quality, take a look at these sites: Protecting Yourself from Wildfire Smoke
and How Smoke from Fires Can Affect Your Health
. If your child has asthma or a respiratory condition, consider getting a respirator mask to help filter out some of the particles in the air. The best masks are medical grade masks rated N95 or P100. See this fact sheet
for more information. You can also get an air filter for your home, and you should make sure to keep doors and windows closed. Do not use fans, especially with an open window, as that may bring more smoke into your home. Run air conditioners or heaters only if there is a filter and it is in good condition. Consider changing the filters on your home HVAC now and again after the fires have passed.
Even children without respiratory problems will be affected by the fire. We are all being exposed to the sad news and worrisome pictures, videos and stories. Many of us are anxious about our homes, our families, our pets and our community. Our kids are looking to us to protect them and for reassurance that everything will be OK. If you're in a safe place, make sure to tell them that. Be specific and use age-appropriate language. Let them now what you're doing to make sure you stay safe, including giving them a basic explanation of what you would do if things change.
Please consider turning off the news when your kids are around. It is important to stay up-to-date on what is going on, but a constant stream of information about the dangers surrounding them creates more anxiety. Don't hide the information, but share it in age-appropriate language and give your children context. Focus on how hard our brave firefighters, policemen, volunteers and other helpers are working to save homes, lives and property. This site
from the AAP Healthy Children website
has some good tips on how to talk to kids about disasters. If you are able to help those who are more directly affected by the fire, tell your children what you are doing and include them if possible. Showing your children how a community comes together to help those in need is a powerful lesson, and there's no better way to learn that lesson than participating in it.