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Wildfire smoke may create health hazard

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is advising Idahoans to avoid exposure to smoke being generated by wildfires across the state.

According to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, air quality in the Pocatello area Friday was described as “moderate”, meaning unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.

Health and Welfare officials said most areas in southwest Idaho are experiencing air quality in the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category. They said areas closest to wildfires may experience conditions that could at times be unhealthy for everyone.

IDHW provides these tips for people to reduce their exposure to smoke and protect their health:

• Limit outdoor activity, especially for older adults, small children, and those with respiratory or heart disease.
• If the weather is warm, run your air conditioner to re-circulate air. Turn the fan blower on manually so it continuously filters the air in your home.
• Wash or change filters on air conditioners and/or furnaces frequently. Use high efficiency filters when possible.
• For homes without a central heating and/or cooling system, use portable air purifiers to remove particles (air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are best, avoid using air purifiers that produce ozone).
• Do not run or engage in heavy work or exercise when the air quality index reaches ‘unhealthy’ levels.
• Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Remaining hydrated helps dilute phlegm in the respiratory tract making it easier to cough smoke particles out. Plan on coughing, it is nature’s way of clearing your lungs. Avoid caffeine products, sugary drinks and alcohol as they have a dehydrating effect.
• If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses in a smoky environment.
Daily updates on air quality conditions at various locations in Idahoare available on DEQ’s Air Quality Reports and Forecasts webpage, For areas where air quality monitors are not available, the Visibility Range and AQI Table can help determine the necessary precautions to take.

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