FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: Tanya Phillips, Health Promotion Manager, 541-770-7708
DATE OF RELEASE: August 4, 2015 / 1:30 pm
Watch for Unhealthy Smoke Levels
[Medford, OR] - Jackson County health officials are offering information about steps help local residents can take to avoid illness from wildfire smoke inhalation.
People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children, are advised to stay indoors. Poor air quality conditions are a health threat and should be avoided by all residents in smoky communities. Local smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly depending on weather factors, including wind direction.
Take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke::
Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations. Use visibility to estimate air quality (attached document). This method is useful during wildfires because air quality monitors may not be located nearby and may not represent real-time conditions. Smoke levels can change rapidly and conditions can vary significantly at different locations. Go to http://www.deq.state.or.us/aq/burning/wildfires/visibility.htm for more information
Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors
Avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions.
Drink lots of water - staying hydrated can keep your airways moist which will help reduce symptoms of respiratory irritation such as scratchy throat, running nose and coughing.
People exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.
Check DEQ's Air Quality Index to see real-time air monitoring data from monitors placed around Oregon: http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx
If you must be outdoors, wearing a special mask called a "particulate respirator" can also help protect your lungs from wildfire smoke. Dust masks that are not NIOSH-certified may not offer protection from small particulate matter, even if properly worn. NIOSH-certified N95 respirators Page 2 of 2
are masks made of filtering material that fit over the nose and mouth. The filter material will filter out some of the small particles that may be found in smoke, but only if there is a good fit to the wearer's face. It is also important to know that N95 particulate respirators and dust masks only filter particles, not toxic gases and vapors.
Most people will find it difficult to use the NIOSH-certified N95 respirators correctly for general use. For instance, it is impossible to get a good seal on individuals with facial hair. It is important to make sure the respirator fits properly and that air does not leak around the sides. If it does not fit properly, the respirator will provide little if any protection, and may offer the wearer a false sense of protection. To make sure that the mask is the correct N95 mask and is properly sealed, one is recommended to be fit tested by professionally trained personnel.
Filtering face-piece respirators and masks can make the work of breathing more difficult and can lead to increased breathing rates and heart rates. They can also contribute to heat stress.
Because of this, respirator use by those with heart and respiratory diseases should only be done under a doctor's supervision. Even healthy adults may find that the increased effort required for breathing makes it uncomfortable to wear a respirator for more than short periods of time.
The best way to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke is avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors; avoid strenuous outdoor activity in smoky conditions; people exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.
For more information on wildfires, health threats from wildfire smoke, and resources in English and Spanish visit http://jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/General/Preparedness
DEQ Public Affairs Specialist
(541) 686-7997 office
(541) 600-6119 work cell