Your Health

Air quality district offers safety tips in wake of active wildfire season


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Women wear surgical masks as they walk along Castro Street in downtown Mountain View Friday afternoon. Bandanas and typical surgical masks do not protect against harmful smoke particles, according to a Santa Clara County Public Affairs health advisory issued last week. Fitted N-95 masks with two straps, available for purchase at most hardware stores, are most effective.

According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the California wildfire season takes place between spring and early fall.

However, wildfires are continuing to spark late this year. Most recently, the Camp Fire in Butte County last week had a severe impact on air quality throughout the Santa Clara Valley, with multiple air quality advisories issued.

It’s important to continue to follow best practices to minimize negative health effects caused by smoke, the district stressed in a Nov. 8 press release.

“If possible, stay inside with windows and doors closed until smoke levels subside,” district officials wrote. “Set air-conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside.”

Although much of the smoke was projected to subside within a few days, the district noted that residents should stay aware of local news coverage or health warnings related to smoke and use their common sense to gauge whether outside activities are appropriate.

The air quality district offered the following health tips.

• If you don’t have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In that case, seek alternative shelter.

• If you have asthma or other lung disease, follow your doctor’s directions about taking medications and following an asthma management plan. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.

• If you have heart or lung disease, if you are an older adult or if you have children, talk with your doctor about whether and when you should leave the area.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

• All residents should be prepared for evacuation in the event of a wildfire. Plan several escape routes, by car and by foot.

• Close windows, doors, vents and blinds before evacuating.

• Take a disaster supply kit with you.

• Make sure that all firewood is stacked away from the house.

• Regularly clean gutters, rake leaves and remove dead limbs from around the house.

• Use a hose or sprinkler to wet the roof and shrubs around the home if there is threat of a wildfire.

For more information, visit baaqmd.gov/about-air-quality.

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