Wildfire smoke chokes Valley air

Tulare County Health and Human Services points out dangerous air quality from nearby wildfire


VISALIA – Fires all over California, but in particular the Ferguson Fire in nearby Yosemite National Park, has decimated the air quality for Tulare County residents. Residents all over Tulare County were unable to see the Sierra Nevada mountains and even the foothills from a certain distance. The air was especially harmful to those afflicted with respiratory issues. 

According to the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, fine particulate matter levels from wildfire smoke are high in Tulare County, making the air unhealthy. Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials.

“Community members should stay indoors and avoid exerting themselves,” warns Tulare County Public Health Officer, Dr. Karen Haught. “Even healthy people may begin experiencing unhealthy symptoms due to wildfire smoke.”

 Wildfire smoke can irritate your eyes and respiratory system, cause coughing, chest pain, irritated sinuses and headaches, and trigger asthma attacks. Older adults and children are more likely to be affected by smoke and health threats from smoke. Seek medical attention if you experience worsening symptoms. Those with chronic heart and lung diseases are at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Outdoor activities should be avoided. If you smell smoke, move inside to an air-conditioned environment.

 Those who have heart disease should seek medical attention if they experience:

  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath

People who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should seek medical attention if they experience:

  • Inability to breathe normally or wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Worsening cough
  • Chest discomfort

Limit your exposure to smoke by:

  • Keeping windows and doors closed, use your air conditioner if you have one and keep the fresh-air intake closed. If an air conditioning unit is unavailable, seek relief at one of the local cooling centers found at tchhsa.org/eng/index.cfm/public-health/public-health-emergency-preparedness-phep/.
  • Using the recirculate option on your vehicle air conditioner.
  • Avoiding the use of gas stoves and vacuuming as these add to indoor pollution.
  • Following your doctor’s advice about medicines and your respiratory management plan.
  • Asking your physician if it is safe for you to wear an “N95” mask. Properly worn, it may offer some protections and can be found at local hardware stores. Dust masks or paper comfort masks won’t provide protection for your lungs from smoke.

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