JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For those who have respiratory problems, especially the elderly and children, smoke can cause serious health problems.
"If you can't breathe, you can't learn," said Lynn Sherman, Director of Community Health for Baptist, which runs the community asthma partnership with Duval County Schools.
Smoky conditions on the First Coast mean a heightened concern for children with respiratory problems.
"It's a challenge to keep children protected when there's smoke in the air, as it is right now," Sherman said.
The organization trains teachers and faculty on how to manage their students' asthma.
Something Sherman knows well.
"This smoke aggravates my asthma, so I know it's aggravating the airways of children," Sherman said.
Duval County has the highest number of asthma-related emergency room visits and the highest rate of asthma deaths in the state, according to Sherman.
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According to figures from the health department, Duval County has a higher asthma death and hospitalization rate than the state of Florida as a whole. The death rate in Duval County alone is nearly double that of the entire state.
In the past, smoke has created challenges for students with breathing conditions.
"Students had to leave school early. Some were even transported to the emergency room as a result of having an asthma episode during the school day," Sherman said.
Sherman suggests schools should follow precautions, like keeping children inside during smoky conditions.
Children who ride the bus may be even more at risk; the combination of diesel fumes and the smoke can be dangerous.
"Diesel fuel can be very stressful on the airways of a child," Sherman said. "[Smoke and diesel are] bad enough alone, but to have the two combined can be very bad."
Not all of Duval County Public Schools have taken advantage of the free community asthma partnership training.
Out of all 160 Duval County Public Schools, Sherman said only 11 have accepted the organization's invitation to train school personnel and be considered Asthma Action schools.
DCPS spokesperson Jill Johnson told First Coast News they follow the health department's general guidance regarding asthma, and added the importance of parents notifying schools of their children's conditions.
First Coast News