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posted on July 16, 2014 14:31

NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        Date: July 16, 2014

Contact:  Niki Forbing-Orr
Public Information Officer
(208) 334-0693

Wildfires cause unhealthy air quality in central Idaho mountains

Outdoor activities should be limited in those areas

Air quality in Garden Valley and the Idaho City area has reached an “Unhealthy” designation, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Public Health is alerting people to limit outdoor activities. Because of wildfires and weather patterns, air quality conditions are not expected to significantly improve through this week.

People exposed to smoke may experience symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Older adults, infants, children and people with medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease are often more affected. People who use inhalers for asthma or other conditions should keep them close at hand. Everyone experiencing uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, choking, or difficulty breathing after moving back indoors should seek medical treatment.

To reduce your exposure to smoke and protect your health, public health officials advise:

  • Everyone should avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors when the air quality index reaches unhealthy levels.
  • Older adults, small children, and those with respiratory conditions or heart disease may be more sensitive to poor air quality and should stay indoors and avoid heavy work when air quality reaches levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups.
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps dilute phlegm in the respiratory tract, making it easier to cough out smoke particles. Plan to cough; it is nature’s way of clearing your lungs. Avoid caffeine products, sugary drinks and alcohol because they are  dehydrating.
  • Stay cool if the weather is warm. Run your air conditioner to recirculate air. Turn the fan blower on manually so it continuously filters the air in your home.
  • For homes without a central heating and/or cooling system, use portable air purifiers to remove particles. Air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are best; avoid using air purifiers that produce ozone. Visit buildings in your community that have air conditioning, such as a library or a movie theater.
  • If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses in a smoky environment.

Not all areas of the state have air quality monitors, so people are encouraged to be cautious if visibility is affected because of smoke and particulates from wildfires. If visibility is reduced to less than eight miles, sensitive groups should limit activity. If visibility is reduced to less than three miles, air quality is considered unhealthy for everyone.

For more complete information about wildfires in your area, daily updates on air quality conditions and more resources, visit the Idaho Smoke Information Blog.