Air Quality Flag Program Frequently Asked Questions

How long can students stay outside when the air quality is unhealthy?

There isn’t an exact amount of time. The worse the air quality, the more important it is to take breaks, participate in less intense activities and watch for symptoms. Remember that students with asthma will be more sensitive to unhealthy air.

Why should students take breaks and participate in less intense activities when air quality is unhealthy?

More pollution enters children's lungs when they are active for a longer period of time or when they participate in more intense activities. Decreasing activity (e.g., taking breaks, rotating players frequently or walking instead of running) helps reduce intensity and the amount of time students are breathing hard.

Are there times when air pollution is expected to be worse?

Ozone pollution is often worse on hot sunny days, especially during the afternoon and early evening. Plan outdoor activities in the morning, when air quality is better and it is not as hot.

Particle pollution can be high any time of day. Since vehicle exhaust contains particle pollution, limit activity near idling cars and buses and near busy roads, especially during rush hours. Also, limit outdoor activity when there is smoke in the air.

How can I find out the daily local air quality?

Many cities have an Air Quality Index (AQI) that provides current and forecasted local air quality information. ADEQ forecasts offer public health advisories based on the Environmental Protection Agency's AQI. 

If students stay inside because of unhealthy outdoor air quality, can they still be active?

It depends on which pollutant is causing the problem:

  • Ozone pollution — If windows are closed, the amount of ozone should be much lower indoors, so it is ok to keep students moving.
  • Particle pollution — If the building has a forced air heating or cooling system that filters out particles, the amount of particle pollution should be lower indoors and it is ok to keep students moving. It is important that the particle filtration system is installed properly and well maintained.

What physical activities can students do inside?

Encourage indoor activities that keep all students moving. Plan activities that include aerobic exercise and involve muscle and bone strengthening components (e.g. jumping, skipping, sit-ups or pushups). If a gymnasium or open space is accessible, promote activities that use equipment, such as cones, hula-hoops and sports balls. If restricted to the classroom, encourage students to come up with fun ways to get everyone moving (e.g., act out action words from a story). Teachers and recess supervisors can work with PE teachers to identify additional indoor activities.

An asthma action plan is a written plan developed with a student’s doctor for daily management of asthma. It includes medication plans, control of triggers, and how to recognize and manage worsening asthma symptoms.