Smoke & Air Quality
Smoke & Populations
Wildfires are increasing in frequency, size, and intensity, and increasingly affect highly populated areas. Wildfire smoke impacts cardiorespiratory health; children are at increased risk due to smaller airways, a higher metabolic rate and ongoing development. The objective of this systematic review was to describe the risk of pediatric respiratory symptoms and healthcare visits following exposure to wildfire smoke. Medical and scientific databases and the grey literature were searched from inception until December 2020. Included studies evaluated pediatric respiratory-related healthcare visits or symptoms associated with wildfire smoke exposure. Prescribed burns, non-respiratory symptoms and non-pediatric studies were excluded. Risk of bias was evaluated using the National Toxicology Program’s Office of Health Assessment and Translation Risk of Bias Rating Tool. Data are presented narratively due to study heterogeneity. Of 2138 results, 1167 titles and abstracts were screened after duplicate removal; 65 full text screens identified 5 pre-post and 11 cross-sectional studies of rural, urban and mixed sites from the USA, Australia, Canada and Spain. There is a significant increase in respiratory emergency department visits and asthma hospitalizations within the first 3 days of exposure to wildfire smoke, particularly in children < 5 years old.