WASHINGTON — An Air Quality Alert was issued by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency as wildfire smoke blows into the region.
As smoke settles over western Washington this weekend, there are some potential health risks residents should be aware of. The air quality over the weekend is expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups and people with health conditions may have worsened symptoms.
“Wildfire smoke contains a mix of gases and fine particles that can travel hundreds of miles,” said Kaiser Permanente Family Health Center Associate Medical Director Dr. John Roberts. “It's unhealthy for everyone to be exposed to it but people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart disease, those over age 65, infants and children, can be more susceptible.”
Dr. Roberts said things like dry cough, sore throat, irritated eyes and difficulty breathing are the most common effects of being exposed to wildfire smoke. He recommends that sensitive groups try to avoid outdoor activities, stay inside as much as possible with doors and windows closed and use an air purifier if possible. For people who need to go outside, he recommends an N95 or P100, sharing that typical cloth and paper masks won’t filter out smoke.
“You also want to monitor for other symptoms that could be indicative of respiratory illness,” Dr. Roberts said. “Smoke inhalation can increase your susceptibility to respiratory infection and we are still dealing with the COVID19 pandemic, so monitoring for other symptoms beyond cough and shortness of breath.”
A recent study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research confirmed that increasingly large wildfires across the Pacific Northwest have caused a late-summer spike in unhealthy pollutants.
Air quality is expected to start improving by Sunday evening.