It is anticipated that wood smoke and particulate matter levels from the fires outside Navajo County will continue to periodically affect communities in Navajo County in the foreseeable future. Shifting winds have been moving the smoke in many directions, and some communities may be periodically affected.
The principal public health threat from short-term exposure to wild fire smoke is from exposure to particulate matter. Exposure to high concentrations of particulate matter can cause persistent cough, phlegm, wheezing, difficulty breathing, bronchitis, asthma flare up, and eye and respiratory tract irritation. Not everyone who is exposed to thick smoke will have health problems.
The level and duration of exposure, age, individual susceptibility, including the presence or absence of pre-existing lung or heart disease and other factors, play significant roles in determining whether or not someone will experience smoke-related health problems.
The following are individuals who may experience difficulties from exposure to wild fire smoke or who may be concerned with exposure:
- Individuals with asthma and other respiratory diseases
- Individuals with cardiovascular disease
- The elderly
- Pregnant women
Itchy eyes, cough, and upper airway irritation are typical symptoms of short-term exposure to smoke. Other potential health effects could include headache, dizziness and nausea.
Closing windows and turning off evaporative coolers when smoke is present should reduce exposure to the smoke and should be adequate to protect persons without respiratory problems.
People who live in the area with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or other respiratory problems, are at the highest risk for health symptoms. People with these pre-existing conditions should avoid exposure to the smoke as much as possible, and consult their physician if they have any questions.
What to do if there is smoke present:
- Stay inside with windows and doors shut.
- Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car.
- Avoid cooking and vacuuming, which can increase pollutants indoors.
- Avoid physical exertion.
- Asthmatics should follow their asthma management plan.
- Keep airways moist by drinking plenty of water. Breathing through a warm, wet washcloth can also help relieve dryness.