Smoky Skies: Think Twice Before Going Outside

Smoky Skies: Think Twice Before Going Outside

It is wildfire season here in Nevada, and that means smoky skies and unhealthy air quality levels. With each wildfire that occurs, a layer of smoke spreads across the region, polluting the air. Being outdoors and breathing in smoke-filled air can cause some adverse health effects.

How Can Smoke Cause Affect One’s Health?

According to AirNow, the smoke from a wildfire contains small, airborne particles that can be inhaled with every breath. Those particles can then travel deep into the lungs or sometimes into the bloodstream, which may affect the lungs or heart. When exposed to these particles short-term (hours or days), it can aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks or acute bronchitis, or increase the chance of getting a respiratory infection.

Who is at Risk for Smoke Related Health Issues?

Those that are in the sensitive group are at the highest risk for decreased lung function and increased respiratory symptoms. This includes children, the elderly, and those with asthma, lung or heart disease. However, even those in good health are still susceptible to health problems.

RELATED: Haze on the Horizon: Stay Inside When Skies Are Smoky

When to Stay Inside

When smoke is in the air, staying inside is highly recommended to prevent these symptoms. Following that advice might not be easy, especially for athletes that enjoy training in the outdoors. Renown Health pulmonologist Dr. Farah Madhani-Lovely says that when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is above 50, those engaging in physical activity outside are taking in up to 40 percent more of that polluted air, leading to an even higher risk for developing health issues. When there is smoke in the air, consider holding off on that bike ride or run outside, and work out in the gym or at home instead.

Even if smoke isn’t visible in the air, it’s best to take other precautions before going outdoors. First, check to see what the AQI is. This can be found on the AirNow website by entering a zip code or state. Results for current conditions will come up, which will show a color and number that represents a certain level of health risk.  

Another way to stay updated on local air quality reports is to tune into wildfire and smoke-related news coverage.

RELATED: What is the Air Quality Index? Is it Safe or Unsafe to Breathe?

What Symptoms Can Occur?

According to The American Lung Association, these are some of the symptoms to watch for after smoke inhalation:

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Difficult taking a full breath
  • Chest heaviness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness

If experiencing any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention or call the doctor for advice.

Sometimes, these symptoms do not appear for as long as 24 to 48 hours after smoke inhalation.

For those that have pre-existing lung or heart conditions, it is a good idea to consult with a health care provider on action or management plans. To schedule an appointment with Renown Pulmonary Medicine, call 775-982-5000.