Wildfire Smoke Health Threats and Protective Actions
June 22, 2011
Health threat facts:
a. Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and small particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate you respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. The main concern for your health is from the small particles.
b. The small particles in smoke can cause coughing, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, stinging eyes, a runny nose, and asthma exacerbations. If a person has heart or lung disease, smoke can make symptoms worse.
c. People who have heart disease may experience more serious symptoms such as chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Smoke may also worsen symptoms for people with pre-existing conditions such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Protect yourself and your family from wildfire smoke:
a. Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it is probably not a good time for outdoor activities such as jogging or working outdoors. If you are outdoors for short periods use a scarf or mask to prevent inhalation of particles.
b. Pay attention to local air quality reports. Sierra Vista has initiated Air Quality Index (AQI) monitoring. Results will be posted on the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (AZDEQ) website at http://www.phoenixvis.net/PPMmain.aspx In the absence of air quality index reports, refer to the visibility guide in the accompanying AZDEQ "What to Do During a Fire" brochure for additional health effects and recommended actions.
c. If you are advised to stay indoors, keep your windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
d. Don't add to indoor air pollution. Don't use anything that burns, even candles. Don't vacuum or smoke as these activities put more pollution in the air.
e. Follow your doctor's advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.