utah wildfires

Wildfires & Your Health

What impact does all that smoke have on your health?

Get live air quality data for Washington County (monitor loctaed in Hurricane) HERE

During the presence of moderate to heavy wildfire smoke, people with asthma and heart/lung diseases, children, and the elderly should:


  • Stay indoors as much as possible
  • Avoid prolonged or heavy exertion
  • Have prescribed medications and inhalers readily available
  • Avoid the use of swamp coolers (evaporative air conditioners) which can blow smoke into the house
  • Consider temporary relocation if smoke is causing illness
  • Seek medical attention as needed

In heavy smoke conditions, everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and limit time spent outside.

Wildfire smoke is mostly small particles, gases and water vapor and includes trace amounts of hazardous air pollutants. Particulate from smoke is a mixture of solid particles – pieces of wood and other solids that are burning – and liquid droplets. It tends to be very small, generally less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. (For comparison, a human hair is about 100 micrometers) These small particles are more of a health concern than the coarser particles that typically make up road dust because they can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs. The incomplete burning of wood or other organic materials produces carbon monoxide, the gas in smoke. Its levels are highest during the smoldering stages of a fire.

Both fine and coarse particles can accumulate in the respiratory system and are associated with numerous health effects. Coarse particles can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma.

When exposed to PM (particulate matter), people with existing heart or lung diseases—such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart disease, or ischemic heart disease—are at increased risk of premature death or admission to hospitals or emergency rooms.

The elderly also are sensitive to PM exposure. They are at increased risk of admission to hospitals or emergency rooms and premature death from heart or lung diseases. When exposed to PM, children and people with existing lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or vigorously as they normally would, and they may experience symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. PM can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and can aggravate existing respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis, causing more use of medication and more doctor visits.

Source: Utah Department of Air Quality


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