Wildfire smoke prompts Air Quality Alert for eastern Washington counties
Stephanie May, Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency | 509.863.8214, SMay@SpokaneCleanAir.org
Kelli Hawkins, Spokane Regional Health District | 509.994.8968, email@example.com
SPOKANE, Wash – Based on current wildfires, smoke levels and weather patterns, an air quality alert is in effect for all counties easte of the Cascades, announced the National Weather Service after coordination with state and local air quality agencies across the state. The alert will be in effect through 10 a.m., Monday.
The local air quality forecast by Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency for today calls for northerly winds continuing to bring wildfire smoke into our area, with a potential shift to northeasterly winds that could provide some improvement this afternoon. Changes in wind direction and wildfire activity could bring more impacts to air quality. A cold front on Sunday is expected to begin clearing out smoke across the area.
"Air quality conditions can change rapidly, especially during wildfire season, so it is important to check the
Air Quality Index regularly for updates at www.SpokaneCleanAir.org," said Lisa Woodard.
When air quality reaches unhealthy/red on the AQI, everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
“It is vital that individuals check current air quality conditions and take the necessary steps to protect their health. Inhaling smoke is not good for anyone, even healthy people. We recommend that people who are sensitive to poor air quality stay indoors and keep their indoor air as clean as possible,” said Dr. Francisco Velázquez, Interim Health Officer for Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD). “You should also keep medications on hand and contact your health provider if necessary.”
- People most likely to have health problems from breathing smoke include:
- Persons 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 prior history of heart attack or stroke
- Infants and children under 18
- Older adults (over age 65)
- Pregnant women
- People who smoke
- People with diabetes
According to SRHD, some respiratory symptoms including cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing are common to both wildfire smoke and to the COVID-19 virus. Other smoke-related health effects include:
- Coughing, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, stinging eyes, and runny nose.
- If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse.
- People who have heart disease might experience chest pain, a 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, smoke may worsen symptoms (inability to breathe normally, cough with or without mucus, chest discomfort, wheezing, and shortness of breath).
- Seek medical attention when experiencing severe symptoms, such as chest pain or difficulty breathing. Dial 911 for emergency assistance if symptoms are serious.
- If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, it is best to treat it like it could be COVID-19. Protect others by staying home. If you are concerned about your health, call your health care provider to discuss COVID-19 testing and other possible reasons for your illness.
Reduce your exposure to smoke:
- Check local air quality reports at http://www.SpokaneCleanAir.org and listen to news or health warnings for your community. The Air Quality Index categories and recommended actions are here.
The best way to protect you and your family this year will be to stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible.
Avoid physical exertion outdoors if smoke is in the air.
- Keep windows and doors closed. Track the air quality and open your windows for fresh air when the air quality improves. Pay attention to the heat indoors. If you don't have air conditioning and it's getting too hot, seek shelter a family member's home. If this is not an option, seek relief somewhere where you can socially distance, especially if you are not vaccinated for COVID-19.
- Improve the filtration in your home. Run an air conditioner, set it to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake. Make sure to change the filter as the manufacturer recommends. It may fill faster when smoke is prolonged.
- Create a “clean-air room” in your home using a HEPA filter and change the filter more often when it’s smoky. Some room air cleaners can help reduce particulate levels indoors, as long as they are the right type and size for your home. If you don’t have a HEPA filter, here is a link to a short video on how to make a DIY box fan filter.
- Avoid adding to indoor pollution. Don’t smoke or use candles, incense, sprays, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Don’t broil or fry food. Don’t vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home.