Smoke from forest fires affects air quality; could worsen with the rise in high atmospheric pressure on Saturday
SPOKANE, Wash. – Smoke from wildfires in the area is currently affecting air quality and conditions could potentially worsen by Sunday afternoon, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. (Spokane Clean Air).
At noon today, the Air Quality Index (AQI) is in the unhealthy range for sensitive/orange bands and is expected to remain in that range for most of the day and into tomorrow, before the conditions do not deteriorate further.
“On Saturday, high air pressure is expected to begin to build in the region, paving the way for more smoke to build up. We are closely monitoring the situation and will update the air quality forecast as needed. over the weekend,” according to Mark Rowe, Air Quality Monitoring Manager for Spokane Clean Air.
“Given our proximity to some of the fires, any changes in wind direction and/or fire activity could have significant impacts on air quality. It is therefore important that individuals monitor the AQI and take the necessary steps to protect their health,” said Scott Windsor, executive director of Spokane Clean Air.
Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez added, “Smoke can affect anyone. It is important for all of us to be prepared in order to reduce exposure. If you have outdoor events and activities planned for this weekend, please monitor air quality levels and make the health of attendees and staff a top priority when making decisions.”
SRHD provides a guide for school activities and outdoor sporting events to help make decisions based on air quality. The same guide could be used by businesses or for private gatherings. It can be found at srhd.org/air-quality-wildfire-faq, under Resources.
Bad for Sensitive Groups/Orange: Sensitive groups, defined below, should take steps to reduce their exposure: limit time spent outdoors, avoid strenuous outdoor activities, and follow tips for cleaner indoor air (provided below). Everyone should watch for symptoms as a sign to reduce exposure.
Sensitive groups include those most likely to experience health problems from breathing smoke, including:
- People with or recovering from COVID-19
- People with lung diseases (asthma, COPD, bronchitis, emphysema)
- People with respiratory infections
- People with existing heart or circulatory problems
- People with a history of heart attack or stroke
- Infants and children under 18 years old.
- Seniors (over 65)
- Pregnant women
- people who smoke
- People with diabetes
Symptoms of smoke exposure can range from mild to severe, including coughing, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, itchy eyes and runny nose, shortness of breath, chest pain, and headache. If you have heart or lung disease, smoking can make your symptoms worse. People with heart disease may experience chest pain, rapid or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
If you have a pre-existing respiratory condition such as asthma, COPD (including chronic bronchitis and emphysema) or allergies, smoking may make symptoms worse (inability to breathe normally, cough with or without mucus, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath). Consult a doctor in case of severe symptoms, such as chest pain or difficulty breathing. Dial 911 for emergency assistance if symptoms are severe.
Symptoms of Smoke and COVID: Some respiratory symptoms, including cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing, are common to both wildfire smoke and the COVID-19 virus.
Symptoms unique to COVID-19 include increased severity of cough, new loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fever. If you have any of these symptoms, even seemingly minor ones, you should be tested for COVID-19. Free home tests can be ordered by visiting the testing section at covid.srhd.org.
Steps to reduce exposure to smoke:
- Limit the duration and intensity of outdoor physical activity.
- Stay indoors with cleaner indoor air
- Close windows and doors unless it is too hot to maintain safe temperatures.
- Don’t add to indoor air pollution, such as smoking or burning candles.
- Filter indoor air through an HVAC system, portable HEPA air purifier, or DIY box fan filter.
- Set the air conditioning to recirculation.
- If you are unable to maintain clean, fresh air at home, seek shelter elsewhere.
- If you must be outdoors, wear a properly fitted, NIOSH-approved particulate respirator, such as an N95 mask.
For more information and resources on wildfire smoke and your health: