Updated June 12, 2020
Summer air quality in Spokane can often be impacted by regional wildfires. This results in air pollution that is sometimes unhealthy for all. During times of poor air quality, Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) urge residents to understand the health risks associated with wildfire smoke and take precautions to protect their health.
Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation, building materials and other materials. Wildfire smoke can make anyone sick, even someone who is healthy, if there is enough smoke in the air. Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, including the following:
Trouble breathing normally
A scratchy throat
Wheezing and shortness of breath
An asthma attack
While inhaling smoke isn't good for anyone, some people are especially sensitive and more likely to experience health problems related to wildfire smoke including the following:
People with existing health conditions such as the following are also also more likely to experience health effects:
Respiratory symptoms such as dry cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing are common symptoms of both wildfire smoke exposure and COVID-19. See how the symptoms compare below. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or chest pain, get medical attention as soon as possible by calling 911 or calling ahead to the nearest emergency medical facility.
Exacerbation of lung, heart and circulatory conditions***
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Congestion or runny nose****
New loss of taste or smell
Less common: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke
Populations at increased risk for severe respiratory problems from wildfire smoke include children and adolescents, especially when active. Children under the age of six are most at risk for experiencing severe respiratory problems from wildfire smoke. When air quality conditions deteriorate into "unhealthy" ranges, the best thing to do is limit outdoor exposure.
If there are concerns about indoor air quality in the workplace, check with your employer about keeping the air inside as clean as possible. The windows and doors should be kept closed. The building air conditioner should be used with the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
Spokane Regional Health District Guidance for Air Pollution and School Activities/Outdoor Sport Events
Spokane Regional Clean Air Is the Air Safe Infographic
United States Department of Agriculture Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19 FAQ
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wildfires Page Ready.gov - Wildfires Page
United States Environmental Protection Agency Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires