Sonora, CA – Unprecedented wildfires this summer, affecting large parts of the state, including the Mother Lode are triggering more related health warnings and advice.
Today, officials in both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties are advising residents to use even more caution and providing more tips. Public health officials in Tuolumne County note that many families are traveling to areas affected by the fires due to wildfire smoke, which can travel hundreds of miles and affect large geographic areas, including areas of residence, work or leisure.
They explain that the smoke contains a particulate matter called PM2.5, an air pollutant that is breathed deep into the lungs. This component is linked to a number of health problems, including coughing, wheezing, reduced lung function, asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes. It can also have long-term health impacts. Smoke may contain other unknown, potentially hazardous chemicals and particles from manmade materials that may have burned.
All At Risk When Wildfire Smoke Persists
Groups of people are more sensitive to the adverse health effects of wildfire smoke include those with cardiovascular or lung ailments; diabetes patients and obese persons; also infants, small children and teens as well as pregnant women and older adults.
Children who breathe in wildfire smoke and ash may experience chest pain or tightness; trouble breathing; dizziness, wheezing, coughing, nose/throat and eye burning are also possible. It causes additional impacts to kids with asthma, allergies, or chronic health issues. Additional stresses to heart and lungs in people of all ages are also possible when hot, smoky conditions persist, which may impact those unused to extreme heat and/or who become dehydrated.
Residents and visitors may regularly check local air quality through an online air quality monitoring resource here. You can consult an estimate-for-yourself air quality gauge earlier provided by health officials here.
Proactive Ways To Avoid Smoke Illness
Other tips include staying indoors with air conditioning on; reduce outdoor activity; call your physician for advice during prolonged smoky periods, especially if your symptoms worsen; have a family plan and kit containing a three-day supply of food, water, medicines and other necessities case you need to stay home or evacuate.
Calaveras County officials are extending some further advice as well. Among their directions: do not run whole-house fans, swamp coolers, or fresh air ventilation systems that bring smoky outdoor air inside. Run your air-conditioner only if it does not pull in outdoor smoke; change any standard air conditioner filters to a medium or high efficiency filter. If available, use the unit’s “re-circulate” or “recycle” setting. Other common sense advice: do not smoke, vacuum, fry food, or do other things to create any indoor air pollution; If you have asthma, take your medications and follow your asthma management plan.
Even healthy persons can be affected by wildfire smoke, advises Calaveras County Health Officer Dr. Dean Kelaita. “If you can see or smell smoke, take precautions. People with heart or lung disease who experience repeated coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain should contact their doctor or clinic and if an existing illness gets worse due to smoke exposure, seek medical help,” he advises.