What does it mean to be safely prepared for wildfire smoke?

Whatcom Community College students write and produce news for local public radio station KMRE. This story originally aired on KMRE News Wednesday, Oct. 19.

The Washington Smoke blogspot indicates fire locations for the state and current AQI levels for Western, Central and Eastern Washington.

Smoke setting over suburban neighborhood
Smoke hangs in then air over a neighborhood in Ferndale, Washington on Oct. 19, 2022. Photo courtesy: Staci Baird

Dr. Sudhakar Karlapudi is the Network Chief Medical Officer for Peace Health in the Northwest and recently spoke to KMRE News regarding the unhealthy air quality.

“I would recommend not being outside home or work environments where the air quality can be regulated,” he said. Karlapudi also advised checking your home’s air filter and avoiding exercising outside.

AQI (Air Quality Index) is a measurement used for reporting current air quality. A generally healthy range as stated on airnow.gov is from 0 to 50. Over the last few weeks the AQI has ranged 107 in Bellingham to 318 in Ferndale.

“Patients who have other medical problems like advanced heart failure, or COPD, or asthma, then this amount of smoke can make their other symptoms worse like getting shortness of breath or getting cough and sputum,” Karlapudi said.

There is not enough evidence to indicate long-term impacts from this environment but the Whatcom County Health Department Wildfire Smoke blog suggests:

Be Prepared

Don’t wait until there’s smoke in the air. Prepare ahead of time for wildfire smoke.

  • Consider getting an air purifier. Air purifiers with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air. More information: EPA’s Indoor Air Filtration Factsheet (PDF)
  • If you have asthma or another respiratory condition, make sure you have an inhaler or other medications that you might need. Make an asthma management plan with your healthcare provider.
  • Make plans for indoor activities for kids on smoky days. Consider what your children can do if they need to stay indoors when smoke levels are “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or worse.

Schools, camps, sports teams, and daycare providers should make plans for smoky days. Plan to postpone outdoor activities or move them indoors when smoke levels are “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or worse. Air Pollution and School Activity Guide.

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