Editor's note: The Hillsborough County Health Department issued this news alert Thursday morning following widespread reports of wildfire smoke around the Tampa Bay area:
The Hillsborough County Health Department cautions citizens that wildfire smoke is a respiratory irritant that can cause scratchy throat or irritated eyes and nose. Smoke can also worsen conditions such as asthma and other chronic respiratory or lung conditions. Dust generated from increased wildfire response activity on dirt roads may also worsen these conditions.
How to protect your family from smoke:
- Pay attention to local air quality reports, news coverage or health warnings related to smoke.
- Use common sense when outside conditions are smoky. Avoid prolonged outdoor activities. It is especially important to limit time spent outdoors for children and persons with existing medical conditions.
- Stay indoors and run your air conditioner, if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. For best results, run the air conditioning with re-circulated air. Note: If you do not have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In these cases, seek alternative shelter.
- Help keep particle levels lower inside. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves and even candles. Do not vacuum, which stirs up particles already inside your home. Also do not smoke tobacco.
- Follow your doctor's advice about taking medicines and following your asthma management plan if you have asthma or other lung disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
For local information on air quality, please see http://www.epchc.org/current_air_quality.htm; and for more information on how smoke from fires can affect your health please visit http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=smoke.index.