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Health Advisory: Unhealthy air quality guidance for healthcare providers

Published Oct. 14, 2022

Smoke from wildfires is affecting local air quality. U.S. National Weather Service issued an air quality alert for Pierce County through Monday, Oct. 17 at 11 a.m.

Wildfire smoke, woodstove smoke and other pollution affect Pierce County’s air quality. Health risks increase the longer air quality stays poor. Monitor outdoor air quality in your area to ensure patient safety.

Health effects of wildfire smoke

Everyone may experience health effects when air quality is unhealthy. Sensitive groups may experience serious effects. Health effects include worsening heart or lung disease, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, coughing and eye and sinus irritation. Those most at risk are:

  • People with heart disease or lung disease, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Adults over age 65.
  • Pregnant people.
  • Children and infants.
  • People with diabetes.
  • People who smoke.
  • People living with obesity.
  • People with respiratory infections, like cold or flu.

Wildfire smoke and COVID-19

Smoke from wildfires can aggravate respiratory conditions. People who suffer from the effects of COVID-19 can develop serious complications, like pneumonia, and may require medical care or hospitalization. Older people and people with chronic illnesses are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. Their risk intensifies when air quality is poor.

Patient recommendations

  • Avoid physical exertion.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Keep doors and windows closed.
  • Create a clean air room, if possible.
  • Run an air conditioner and set it to re-circulate.
  • Use a HEPA air cleaner. Avoid air cleaners with ionizing or electrostatic features.
  • Do not use cloth masks. They do not protect against the fine particulates in wildfire smoke.

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