'Unhealthy' Air Quality Expected For Much Of Southern Idaho

Aug 12, 2012

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says smoke from wildfires burning around the region is causing poor air quality in the southern part of the state.

Air quality levels are listed as 'unhealthy' in some parts of the state, and are expected to stay that way for much of the weekend.

The Department encourages people to limit outdoor activity, especially for people with respiratory diseases like asthma, infants, children and older adults. 

Here's their press release:

Air quality in some locations of southern Idaho has reached an ‘unhealthy’ designation, with public health officials alerting people to limit outdoor activity to protect their health. The Department of Environmental Quality is forecasting unhealthy levels for the Central Mountain areas of Idaho, particularly the Ketchum area.  Because of wildfire activity and weather patterns, air quality conditions are not expected to significantly improve over the weekend.

People exposed to smoke may experience symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Older adults, infants, children and people with medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease are more affected. People who use inhalers for asthma or other conditions should keep them close at hand. People are advised to seek medical treatment for uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, choking, or if breathing difficulty continues once they are indoors.

To reduce their exposure to smoke and protect their health, public health officials advise:

Everyone should avoid outdoor heavy work or exercise when the air quality index reaches “unhealthy” levels.

  • Older adults, small children, and those with respiratory conditions or heart disease may be more sensitive to poor air quality and should stay indoors and avoid heavy work when air quality reaches unhealthy levels.
  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps dilute phlegm in the respiratory tract making it easier to cough smoke particles out. Plan on coughing, it is nature’s way of clearing your lungs. Avoid caffeine products, sugary drinks and alcohol as they have a dehydrating effect.
  • Stay cool if the weather is warm. Run your air conditioner to re-circulate air. Turn the fan blower on manually so it continuously filters the air in your home.
  • For homes without a central heating and/or cooling system, use portable air purifiers to remove particles (air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are best, avoid using air purifiers that produce ozone). Visit areas in your community that have air conditioning, such as a library.
  • If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses in a smoky environment.

Not all areas of the state have air quality monitors, so people are encouraged to be cautious if visibility is affected due to smoke and particulates from wildfires.  If visibility is reduced to less than eight miles, sensitive groups should limit activity. If visibility is reduced to less than three miles, air quality is considered unhealthy for everyone.

Daily updates on air quality conditions at various locations in Idaho are available on DEQ'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.