Unhealthy Bay Area air is affecting children; Here's what families need to know

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Because of the wildfires burning in California and throughout the West, the Bay Area has had nearly a month of spare the air days and it's beginning to take its toll on children.

The Air Quality Index was high enough in the Bay Area Monday, that newly resumed kid's activities, shut down again.

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"I even took some tape and was taping the windows today," said Calvary Presbyterian Nursery School Director, Deb Anaya, who has set up air purifiers all over the school.

But on Monday, the third day of the new school year, she made the difficult decision to close school for the day because the air quality was unhealthy and in the red. She sent an email to parents saying that if air quality measures in the red, with an AQI more than 151, then school will close for the day.

"We just started getting used to being together, separating, all that stuff. So it was a huge decision," Anaya said.

Anaya, who has only closed school three times because of poor air quality in her 20 years at the school, says keeping kids inside isn't safe either, because it's easier to avoid COVID-19 outside. "When we think about having to be inside for five, five and half hours, it changes everything, because then we're looking at our risk of COVID in a whole different way."

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Animals are also showing signs of distress caused by the poor air quality we're experiencing in the Bay Area.

"Return to school might be best when the air quality is enhanced and the fires are a bit more well controlled," said Dr. David Cornfield, the chief of pediatric pulmonary, asthma, and sleep medicine at Stanford Children's Health.

"Given that children are a little bit closer to the ground and they breathe faster, they may be differentially affected more severely than adults."

Dr. Cornfield says the air is safest inside with air filters and windows shut. As for AQI, he says, "anything above 100, really be suspicious about doing anything outdoors."

He says kids with asthma need to stay on their medication and parents should call the doctor if there's any increase in coughing, breathing rates, lethargy, or irritability, which could be a sign that asthma is not well controlled.

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