Skip to main content

Air Quality, Smoke & Your Health

Hazy skies, a red sun, a general feeling of a scratchy throat or watery eyes. These are all markers of the conditions of poor air quality or smoke pollution from neighboring wild fires. And our thoughts and our prayers go out to the many directly effected and those fighting these terrential fires, we here in Converse County are also effected by being a bit downwind. We've listed some important informaiton on knowing how the air quality from these fires can effect your health and also what you can do!

We did a bit of digging and according to the SCAQMD, an air pollution control agency in Orange County in Southern California they advise the following. Keep in mind that Southern California is an area that routinely has to combat poor air quality and yes wildfires in their own right:

What should I do if I'm in an area affected by smoke?

Stay indoors; close all doors and windows. Everyone should avoid vigorous outdoor and indoor activity. Those with respiratory difficulties or heart problems, as well as the elderly and young children should all remain indoors. Keep windows closed and run your air conditioner if possible. Running an indoor air filter is effective in helping reduce the amount of polluted air inside the home. Do not use any indoor or outdoor wood-burning appliances or fireplaces. When smoke subsides, you should air out your home to clear any polluted air that might be trapped inside.

What if I don't have air conditioning, and it's too hot to stay inside?

Heat can be dangerous to anyone, but especially the elderly and very young. If you rely on open windows and doors for cooling and the temps prove to be in the upper register, the EPA recommends you stay with friends or family, or head to a clean air shelter.

What if I have to be outside?

The best thing to do is to seek shelter, but if you must be outside, being prepared is key. Wearing a special N95 or P100 respirator mask can help protect you against the fine particles in smoke. Paper or surgical masks are not effective in preventing inhalation of smoke.

Who is the most vulnerable to smoke exposure?

Most healthy people will recover quickly if exposed to smoke, but there's a large number of people who should take extra precaution. People with asthma and those with cardiovascular or respiratory diseases can experience worsening of their conditions if they inhale smoke.

The elderly, young children and pregnant women are all sensitive populations that should avoid exposure. In addition, smokers should beware, because they may not feel symptoms of exposure as acutely as non-smokers.

What if I'm driving through an area affected by smoke?

A car should only be used to leave an area, not as shelter. If you're in a car, close windows and doors and run your car's air conditioner, making sure you're circulating the air already in the car and not pulling in fresh/smoky air. However, carbon dioxide levels can spike quickly in newer cars if vents and windows are closed and the circulation setting is on. It's a good idea to crack the windows once you're in there for a while to prevent grogginess.

The Environmental Protection Agency as well has an entire page of their site devoted to helping deal with air pollution as the direct result of wild fires. That information can be found by clicking here.

All things being said, we recommend employing common sense strategies with regard to handling poor air quality and smoke. Limit your exposure as much as possible, keep air circulation in your home a top priority, and if you must go out cover your mouth and nose with proper gear.