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Air quality, outdoor safety and weather

Indoor air quality

Are you a child care or early learning program located in King County? If so, consider having an indoor ventilation and filtration assessment completed by Public Health – Seattle & King County Environmental Health COVID-19 Recovery Ventilation & Indoor Air Quality Program. This is a free non-regulatory technical assistance to help you improve your ventilation and indoor air quality.

Outdoor air quality

Outdoor air quality is measured using a color scale called the Air Quality Index (AQI) - green (good), yellow (moderate), orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups which includes children), red (unhealthy for everyone), and purple (very unhealthy). When the air quality in our region is in the orange to purple range, your child care should keep children and staff indoors. For certain children with health conditions, they should even stay inside when the level is moderate (yellow).

The Washington Air Quality Guide for School & Child Care Activities provides recommendations to protect children and youth during school activities and can be applied to child care, before/after school programs, camps, and sports programs for children and youth (18 years and younger) by considering the duration and intensity of outdoor activities.

Wildfire smoke

The summer can bring wildfire smoke to our area. When there are wildfires, before spending time outdoors, check the local air quality to see if outdoor activities are appropriate. It is important to check often since conditions can change rapidly throughout the day.

When the smoke levels are high outside:

  • Keep windows closed as much as possible.
  • Set HVAC/Ventilation systems to recirculate air rather than bring in outside air. A DIY box fan filter can improve indoor air quality in a single room.
  • Use portable HEPA air cleaners that provide 99% or higher filtration to reduce fine particles from wildfire smoke.
  • For a low-cost option, make your own portable air cleaner using a box fan with a MERV 13 furnace filter attached to the back. This video shows how to make one:

Soil safety tips

We all know it can be a challenge to keep children from playing in the dirt and putting their hands in their mouths. Dust, dirt, and mud are kid magnets! See the handout for tips.

Sun safety

Sun safety is important for kids. Anyone can get a sunburn, so everyone needs protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Remember: Child cares need to get written authorization from parents/guardians before applying sunscreen to children in care. You can find sample sunscreen authorization forms below.

For more information on sun safety, visit these websites:


Child care providers are required to monitor weather conditions and dress children appropriately for outdoor playtime. Child Care Weather Watch is a good resource to reference when making decisions about spending time outdoors in the heat or cold.

Extreme heat

Use the Heat Index instead of just the temperature outside. The Heat Index considers the “relative humidity” (moisture in the air) which can make it feel warmer than the outside temperature. (For example - “It's 90 degrees today with a humidity of 55%, so it feels like 97 degrees”).

  • For temperatures in the yellow “caution” range, child care providers should consider modified activities and should pay attention to the cues children are giving them to ensure their safety.
  • For temperatures in the red "danger” range, children should not play outside due to health risks.