Preparedness

Health Professional: 'Choose Your Battles' When Dealing with Wildfire Smoke Inhalation

Fine particulate matter in smoke actually displaces the oxygen that would otherwise be inhaled, leading to headaches, burning eyes, runny noses, coughing, heart disease and other symptoms.

by Kaitlin Bain, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash. / August 21, 2018
Vonae Nielson, soaked head to toe from an air water drop, uses a garden hose to put out hot spots behind her home on South Granite Lake Road, near Cheney, Wash., Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. A fast-moving brush fire quickly grew and its smoke forced brief closures on Interstate 90 in both directions near the Cheney exit as fire officials called for the evacuations of some nearby homes. AP/Colin Mulvany

(TNS) — Unhealthy air quality in the Yakima Valley has brought warnings from health professionals to stay indoors.

Most recently, the Washington State Department of Ecology has issued an air quality alert through noon Thursday. The alert covers seven counties and says the unhealthy air is the result of several large wildfires burning in the region.

While it’s understandable people will have to get groceries, go to work and run other errands, Virginia Mason Memorial Respiratory Care Manager Holly Tull urges residents to “pick their battles” and only go outside when necessary.

Fine particulate matter in smoke actually displaces the oxygen that would otherwise be inhaled, leading to headaches, burning eyes, runny noses, coughing, heart disease, and other symptoms — all of which are worse for people who already have asthma, lung problems and other ailments.

“So the particulates are getting into places and the oxygen can’t flow through as easily,” she said.

If you have to go outside, Tull suggests driving in an air conditioned car that’s filtering through the cabin. While inside your home, run the filtered air conditioner and check the filter often.

Also, if you need to be outside, invest in a mask that’s going to filter as much oxygen as possible.

The N-95 mask is one of the most commonly recommended to filter out wildfire smoke and other particulate matter.

These can usually be purchased at pharmacies, construction stores or other larger retailers such as Walmart and Shopko.

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The light at the end of the smoke-filled tunnel Yakima has been in for the last few days is starting to emerge.

But you'll likely have to wait until at least Friday to reach it.

Widespread unhealthy air quality conditions are expected statewide and all of eastern Washington is reporting very unhealthy and hazardous air conditions, according to the state Department of Ecology. Western Washington is seeing good to very unhealthy conditions.

Conditions in Yakima and White Swan remained very unhealthy Monday morning and were deemed hazardous in Toppenish, Sunnyside and several other areas.

The state Department of Ecology wrote on Washington Smoke Blog Monday morning that strong winds may send temporary relief from smoke today. But widespread improvements to air quality conditions aren't expected until Thursday for the western part of the state and Friday for eastern Washington.

The strong winds that will give some parts of the state a small bit of relief today are also expected to increase fire danger substantially, according to the Department of Ecology.

509-577-7709

kbain@yakimaherald.com

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