Got Smoke? Air Quality Tips from San Juan Basin Public Health
By Claire Ninde
Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest wildfires are affecting local air quality. If smoke is thick or becomes noticeably thicker in your area you should remain indoors or if possible seek out locations where air is filtered. Unusually sensitive people throughout the region should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.
San Juan Basin Public Health advises that if visibility is less than five miles, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy. This is especially true for those with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young, and the elderly. Consider limiting outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present. People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion; everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. Consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors and is making you ill.
Other tips to protect yourself:
- Close windows and doors and stay inside. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.
- Only if they are filtered, run the air conditioning, your evaporative cooler, or the fan feature on your home heating system (with the heat turned off). Keep the outdoor air intake closed and be sure the filter is clean. Filtered air typically has less smoke than the air outdoors. Running these appliances if they are not filtered can make indoor smoke worse.
- Use HEPA room air filtration units if you have them.
- Avoid smoking and/or secondhand smoke, vacuuming, candles, and other sources of additional air pollution.
- Do not use paper dust masks; these do not filter out the particles and gases in smoke.
As temperatures cool in the evening inversion conditions worsen and smoke in low lying areas may become thicker, especially if the outdoor air is still. It tends to be worst near dawn. Close bedroom windows at night.
To prepare for nighttime smoke, consider airing out your home during the early or middle of the afternoon when smoke tends to be more diluted. Use your best judgment. If smoke is thick during the day, follow the tips above.
Please contact your primary health care provider if symptoms persist or become more severe.
Learn More: Smoky conditions serve as a reminder to prepare individual plans to stay safe from wildfire and to prepare emergency kits in case of a wildfire emergency. For information about getting prepared, visit https://www.ready.gov/wildfires.