Your Child's Asthma and Ozone

Poor air quality can be a problem for many people who live in and near cities. And for children with asthma, air pollution can cause serious health problems. Ozone and air pollution can be a trigger for your child's asthma. As with all triggers, the key is to prevent or limit exposure as much as possible. 

One of the main signs of poor air quality is a high amount of ozone. Ozone is a gas that forms when certain chemicals and toxins in the air mix with heat and sunlight. But ozone is not something you can see. It's not like other signs of poor air quality such as smog.

High levels of ozone can cause breathing problems. Some symptoms include coughing, throat irritation, and airway inflammation. Children with asthma may have more severe symptoms. They are also more likely to have an asthma attack when ozone levels are high.

Ozone is more likely to form in warm weather. This means children are more likely to have breathing problems when playing outdoors in the summer. Ozone levels are often highest from April through October. In some parts of the country, levels may be high all year.

How you can help

Here are some things you can do to protect your child from ozone and air pollution:

  • Check the air quality index (AQI) in your area every day. The AQI is a report on the levels of common air pollution across the U.S. When the AQI in your area is 100 or higher, limit the time your child spends outdoors. You can find the AQI for your area in local newspapers, on local TV and radio stations (as part of the weather forecast), and online at the AirNow website .

  • On "ozone action days," people with asthma should stay inside if they can.

  • On other days with poor air-quality, limit the time your child spends outside during the afternoon and early evening hours. This is when ozone levels are often highest. Early in the morning and after sunset are better times for outdoor play.

  • Keep children indoors or away from busy roads when ozone levels are high. Outside play is better in the mornings when air quality is better.

  • Use your air conditioner in hotter months.

  • Don't use tools such as lawnmowers that are gas-powered when children are outside.

  • Seal the lids of all household cleaners and other chemicals to keep fumes from escaping. Check that household appliances are vented to the outside. 

  • Check that your child uses their asthma medicines as directed.

Man handing boy a metered-dose inhaler with spacer and mask.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
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