Health reminder: be aware of smoke


Liane Jollon, interim executive director of the San Juan Basin Health Department, has issued a health reminder due to the smoke from numerous wildfires affecting the air quality in southwest Colorado.

Elderly persons, young children, pregnant women and persons with pre-existing circulatory or respiratory conditions should limit outdoor activity when smoke is visible in the sky.

The following are recommendations from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) on steps to take if wildfire smoke is affecting your health:

• If you smell smoke and/or are beginning to experience symptoms, consider temporarily locating to another area as long as it is safe for you to do so.

• Seek out locations where air is filtered. For example, heading to the local mall, movie theater or recreation center can provide some temporary relief. Local health officials often can help locate places with better air quality during extended smoke episodes.

• Close windows and doors and stay indoors. However, do not close up your home tightly if it makes it dangerously warm inside.

• Only if they are filtered, run the air conditioning, the fan feature on your home heating system (with the heat turned off) or your evaporative cooler. Keep the outdoor air intake closed and be sure the filter is clean. Filtered air typically has less smoke than the air outdoors. Running these appliances if they are not filtered can make indoor smoke worse.

• If you have any HEPA room air filtration units, use them.

• In smoky air, reduce your physical activity level. Avoid exercise or other strenuous activities in heavy smoke. If smoke is simply unpleasant or mildly irritating, changing the timing of a few activities may be all that is necessary.

• Give extra attention to the things that help keep a person healthy at any time. Make healthy eating choices, drink plenty of fluid, get ample sleep and exercise in clean air. To the extent that you can, avoid or mitigate stress by keeping in touch with friends and family, and using other methods of taking a break from worries.

• Commercially available dust masks may seem like a good idea, but they do virtually nothing to filter out the particles and gasses in smoke.

At night

• At night, smoke may move in different directions than smoke does in the day, and can be heavy — especially if the outdoor air is still. It tends to be worse near dawn.

• Close bedroom windows at night.

• To prepare for nighttime smoke, consider airing out your home during the early or middle of the afternoon when smoke tends to be more diluted. Use your best judgment. If smoke is thick during the day, follow the tips above.

For more information, see CDPHE’s web page on wildfire smoke: