This week, areas throughout the Midwest, including parts of Minnesota, are being impacted by poor air quality. Large uncontrolled wildfires in Canada have produced significant smoke that is moving toward our area, which is likely to cause elevated unhealthy fine particle readings on the Air Quality Index. The air quality is predicted to be unhealthy to all. This air quality is especially harmful to sensitive groups, including children, older adults, and people with lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The American Lung Association offers these five tips for people to avoid lung irritation and health complications due to increased air pollution:
Stay indoors. People living close to the fire-stricken areas should follow guidance from local authorities, and remain indoors to reduce breathing smoke, ashes and other pollution in the area if instructed to do so.
Keep an eye on symptoms. Higher levels of smoke in some areas can make breathing more difficult. If you are experiencing symptoms that concern you, contact your healthcare provider.
Take precautions for kids. Extra precaution should be taken for children, who are more susceptible to smoke. Their lungs are still developing, and they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) for their size than adults.
Don’t count on a dust mask. Ordinary dust masks, designed to filter out large particles, and cloth facial coverings will not help. They still allow the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Special, more expensive dust masks with an N-95 or N-100 filter will filter out the damaging fine particles, but may not fit properly, are not made for children or adults with facial hair and are difficult for people with lung disease to use.
Ask for help. The American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists and is a free resource to answer any questions about the lungs, lung disease and lung health, including how to protect yourself during wildfires.
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-Level GuideStar Member, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org. To support the work of the American Lung Association, find a local event at Lung.org/events.