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posted on July 17, 2014 16:46

NEWS RELEASE--FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        Date: July 17, 2014

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

Smoke is becoming an issue statewide; public health officials expand advisory

Smoke from wildfires in Idaho and neighboring states is affecting the air quality in nearly every Idaho community, and public health officials are reminding residents to be aware of the conditions so they can take proper precautions. Air quality in the Treasure Valley is fluctuating and is reaching unhealthy levels at times, and most air quality monitoring across Idaho is currently showing levels in the moderate range. Conditions aren’t expected to change significantly through the weekend.

“As wildfire season continues, air quality will change depending on weather patterns and wildfire activity,” said Jim Vannoy, environmental health manager for the Department of Health and Welfare. “Idahoans should be aware of this and check air quality on a regular basis so they can take appropriate actions if they are planning to work or exercise outside. We’re especially concerned about people who might be more sensitive than most to the smoke in the air.”

Older adults, infants, children and people with medical conditions such as asthma, lung disease, and heart disease are more sensitive to poor air quality. People who use inhalers for asthma or other conditions should keep them close at hand. Everyone is advised to seek medical treatment for uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, choking, or if breathing difficulties continues after they move indoors.

To reduce exposure to smoke to protect people’s health, public health officials advise: 

  • Everyone should avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors when the air quality index reaches unhealthy levels.
  • Visibility can help determine air quality if there is no monitor in your area. If visibility is reduced to less than five miles, sensitive groups should limit activity. If visibility is reduced to less than three miles, air quality is considered unhealthy for everyone. Visibility of less than one mile is considered hazardous and everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors.
  • 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 unhealthy levels.
  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking 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 have a dehydrating effect.
  • Stay cool if the weather is warm. Run your air conditioner to re-circulate air. Turn the fan blower to manual 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 places in your community that have air conditioning, such as a library.
  • If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses in a smoky environment.

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