How the recent poor air quality affected our rare disease family

Canadian wildfire smoke poses health issues for a boy with Pompe disease

Keara Engle avatar

by Keara Engle |

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Like much of the East Coast, we’ve been experiencing poor air quality here in Pennsylvania due to smoke from Canadian wildfires. In my 21 years, I don’t think I can remember a time when our air quality was this bad.

Fortunately, we’re in the south-central part of Pennsylvania, so we didn’t get hit as hard as places like New York. Still, our air quality index was in the 400s, which indicates hazardous conditions, and we experienced some negative effects from all of the smoke.

I tried my best to remain indoors as advised, but I still had to go outside to take out the trash, check the mail, and run to the pharmacy to pick up medication for my children. Even with minimal time outside, I was experiencing headaches that lasted hours, irritated eyes, and sneezing.

Thankfully, my symptoms weren’t too horrible. But my 5-year-old son, Cayden, had it a bit worse. Due to his infantile-onset Pompe disease, his lungs aren’t very strong. And to top it all off, he was still recovering from a virus that landed him in the hospital for two days. In his very short time outside, he experienced headaches like I did, but he also had some trouble breathing.

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It was nothing too crazy, but he had to use his inhaler and complete a few other breathing treatments. I was shocked to see what just a few minutes outside did to him. For his protection, I kept him indoors, but he’s too young to understand why.

Cayden kept begging me to go outside and play. With the weather warming up, he’s been loving all our time outside. He wasn’t happy that we had to stay indoors for a few days. Plus, the smoke hit just days after he got new bubbles and a styrofoam airplane to fly. I promised him that we could play outside again in a few days, but that doesn’t sit right with a 5-year-old.

Two young boys hold a red styrofoam airplane in what appears to be a backyard. Cayden is seated in a small, red and blue "PJ Masks" chair, while LJ crouches next to him. The chair is on a cement slab against a brick house.

Cayden, right, and his uncle LJ show off a new styrofoam airplane. (Photo by Keara Engle)

I’m hoping that this is the last of our poor air quality days because it’s been pretty boring. It reminds me of remaining indoors during COVID-19 lockdowns. I know how bored I was, so I can’t imagine what it’s like for a young child.

Keeping Cayden indoors was the best decision, though. I’d hate to see him get really sick from being outside unnecessarily.

Note: Pompe Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pompe Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Pompe disease.


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