June 21, 2013 - Liane Jollon, Interim Executive Director of the San Juan Basin Health Department, has issued an immediate “Health Advisory” for Pagosa Springs, Archuleta County and the surrounding area due to the degraded air quality from smoke from the West Fork Fire near Wolf Creek Pass.
Elderly persons, young children, pregnant women and persons with pre-existing circulatory or respiratory conditions should limit outdoor activity when smoke is visible in the sky.
Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, headaches, stinging eyes or a runny nose. If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse. People with heart disease might experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, or fatigue.
The following are steps to take if wildfire smoke is affecting your health:
- Stay alert to local news coverage and changing sky and wind conditions.
- If you smell smoke and/or are beginning to experience symptoms, temporarily locate to another area as long as it is safe for you to do so.
- Seek out locations where indoor air is filtered.
- Close windows and doors and stay indoors. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.
- Only if they are filtered, run the air conditioning, the fan feature on your home heating system (with the heat turned off) or your evaporative cooler. Keep the outdoor air intake closed and be sure the filter is clean. Filtered air typically has less smoke than the air outdoors. Running these appliances if they are not filtered can make indoor smoke worse.
- If you have any HEPA room air filtration units, use them.
- In smoky air reduce your physical activity level. Avoid exercise or other strenuous activities in heavy smoke.
- Give extra attention to the things that help keep a person healthy at any time. Make healthy eating choices, drink plenty of fluid, get ample sleep, and exercise in clean air. To the extent that you can, avoid or mitigate stress by keeping in touch with friends and family.
- Commercially available dust masks may seem like a good idea, but they do not filter out the particles and gasses in smoke.
- At night smoke may move in different directions than smoke does in the day, and can be heavy--especially if the outdoor air is still. It tends to be worse near dawn.
- Close bedroom windows at night.
- To prepare for nighttime smoke, consider airing out your home during the early or middle of the afternoon when smoke tends to be more diluted. Use your best judgment. If smoke is thick during the day, follow the tips above.
For more information, see SJBHD’s web page on wildfire information: http://www.sjbhd.org/environmental-health