Limit Outdoor Time: Poor Air Quality Due to Smoke From Fires

Unhealthy air was plaguing Southern California due to multiple fires burning, including the 14,000-acre Woolsey Fire which had consumed thousands of acres and forced residents to pack up and flee Friday. 

Parts of West San Fernando Valley and Northwest Coastal LA County were affected, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. 

"It is difficult to tell where ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of dust particles in the air, so we ask everyone to be aware of their immediate environment and to take actions to safeguard their health," Muntu Davis, Health Officer for Los Angeles County, said.

"Smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even people who are healthy. People at higher risk include those with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults."

Davis urged anyone who can see or smell smoke to stay indoors. 

Children or those with heart disease, asthma, and other chronic respiratory diseases were also at a higher risk. 

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor. The small particles can cause burning eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, headaches and illness. For those with sensitive conditions, the smoke can cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and even chest pain.

Schools, recreational programs, and sports teams for children in smoke-impacted areas have been advised to suspend outside activities until conditions improve. Authorities were also advising families to put hikes and picnics on hold.

How to protect your family from harmful effects of bad air quality:

  • If you see smoke, smell smoke, or see a lot of particles and ash in the air, avoid outdoor activity to limit your exposure to harmful air. Especially for those with heart or lung disease, the elderly and children.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors shut. Air conditioners that re-circulate air within the home can help filter out harmful particles.
  • Avoid using air conditioning units that only draw in outside air or that do not have a re-circulating option. Check air conditioner filters and replace them regularly. Indoor air filtration devices with HEPA filters can reduce the level of particles that circulate indoors.
  • Go to an air conditioned public place such as a library or shopping center to stay cool and to protect yourself from harmful air if you do not own an air condition and it is too hot to keep doors and windows shut at home.
  • Do not smoke or use fireplaces, candles, and vacuums. Use damp cloths to clean dusty indoor surfaces.
  • Contact your doctor or go to an urgent care center immediately if you have symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to smoke exposure, including severe coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness. If life threatening, please contact 911.  
  • After a long time of heavy smoke, fine particles can build up indoors even though they cannot be seen. Wear a mask to prevent exposures to large particles, although most masks do not prevent exposure to fine particles and toxic gases, making it more dangerous to your health.
  • Follow the ash clean-up and food safety instructions.

Recommendations for pets:

  • Leave pets indoors such as an enclosed garage or a house, avoid leaving pets outside.
  • If dogs or cats appear to be in respiratory distress, immediately take them to an animal hospital.  

Symptoms of pet respiratory distress:

For dogs include panting and/or an inability to catch their breath.

For cats are less noticeable, but may include panting and/or an inability to catch their breath.

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