With over seventy wildfires raging in the Western states, smoke is settling quite heavily all over Washington. Here are a few tips, via the CDC, to keep you and your family safe as air quality decreases:
Who faces the greatest risk from wildfire smoke?
- People who have heart or lung diseases and/or illnesses. This includes people with asthma, chest pain, cancer, and heart disease.
- Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke than their younger counterparts. However, everyone should be mindful of their body’s wellbeing. Signs of decreased oxygen levels include headaches, dizziness, irritability, and fatigue, as well as nausea and vomiting.
- Children also face greater health threats. Children’s airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Also, they often spend more time outdoors engaged in activity and play.
What can you do to decrease your risk?
- Check local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Specific to the State of Washington and nearby areas is this AQ map posted by the Spokesman Review.
- Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run the air conditioner and keep the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. When this bout of smoke passes, be sure to change your A/C filter.
- Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution: burning candles, fireplaces, gas stoves, etc. Vacuuming and smoking also add to indoor pollution.
- Prevent wildfires from starting. Pay attention to warnings and follow local regulations regarding burn piles and campfires. Check with your local fire department to be sure the weather is safe for burning.
- Follow the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease.
- Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
- Evacuate from the path of wildfires. Listen to the news to learn about current evacuation orders. Take only essential items with you.
Facing these massive wildfires and such high levels of pollution can be frightening. Remember, authorities and first responders are working hard to maintain everyone’s safety. Keep the affected areas and the firefighters in your prayers, and don’t forget the one upside to the smoky conditions here in Spokane: The sunsets are stunning.