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Public Health Officials Recommend Limiting Time Outside As Air Quality Worsens

Smoke from several wildfires in Idaho and surrounding states is affecting the air quality for residents and is expected to continue to do so for the next several days. Public health officials are advising people in the affected areas to limit their time outside as much as possible to reduce their exposure to smoke.

Wildfire smoke has reduced air quality across the five counties and the Nez Perce Reservation in North Central Idaho. The Air Quality Index (AQI) for these areas has already reached levels for the “Unhealthy,” category, and will continue to vary during the next few days. Residents should monitor the air quality when planning outdoor activities.

“Staying indoors is the best way to reduce exposure to smoke,” said Ed Marugg, Environmental Health Director for Public Health-Idaho North Central District. “If you have to be outside, remember that surgical masks, bandanas, and dust masks do not reduce the amount of smoke you breathe”.

Older adults, infants, children, and people with medical conditions such as asthma, lung disease, and heart disease are more sensitive to poor air quality and should reduce activity outdoors when air quality is moderate or worse. People who use inhalers for asthma or other conditions should keep them close at hand. Everyone is advised to seek medical treatment for uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, choking, or if breathing difficulties continue after they move indoors.

To reduce smoke exposure to protect people’s health, public health officials advise: Older adults, small children, and those with respiratory conditions or heart disease should stay indoors and avoid heavy work when air quality reaches unhealthy for sensitive groups levels Everyone should avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors when the air quality index reaches unhealthy levels. Stay cool if the weather is warm. If your home has a central air system, run your fan blower continuously to re-circulate and filter the indoor air. If possible, use a filter in your air conditioner that is designed to collect smoke particles. If you do not have clean indoor air, visit places in your community that have air conditioning, such as a library.

Daily updates on air quality conditions at various locations in Idaho are available on the Department of Environmental Quality’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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