BARTOW, Fla. – In response to a wildfire in the River Ranch area, the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk) cautions everyone about the health effects of wildfire smoke exposure.
Wildfire smoke is a respiratory irritant. It can cause a scratchy throat or irritated eyes and nose. Smoke can also worsen asthma and other chronic lung or heart conditions.
Dust from dirt roads may also worsen these conditions.
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Ways to protect yourself and your family from smoke:
- Know where to find information about the location of a wildfire. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has developed an active wildfire dashboard.
- Pay attention to local air quality reports, news coverage, and health warnings related to smoke. Consider air quality advice available at www.AirNow.gov.
- Download and use the US Environmental Protection Agency’s citizen science-based Smoke Sense App from Google Play or the Apple App Store. You can learn more about the Smoke Sense app here.
- Avoid prolonged outdoor activities. This is especially important for children and persons with pre-existing medical conditions. If you must be outside, being prepared is key. Be mindful of the air quality conditions where you will be spending time outdoors. Stay tuned into special advisory warnings for the area. Note that wearing a N95 or P100 respirator mask can help protect you against fine particles found in smoke. Paper or surgical masks are not effective in preventing inhalation of smoke.
- Keep indoor air as clean as possible. Stay indoors and run your air conditioner if you have one. Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible. Keep the fresh air intake (if you have one) closed to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. For best results, run the air conditioning with recirculated air. 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 shelter elsewhere.
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- Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves, or candles. Do not vacuum. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke.
- Consider use of portable room air cleaners equipped with high efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filters. Only use air cleaners that are labeled and certified to emit low or no ozone.
- Follow your medical provider’s advice about taking medications. Follow the individual asthma management care plan if you or a loved one has asthma or other lung diseases. Call your medical provider if symptoms worsen.
- If you have respiratory problems and cannot reach your medical provider, have an alternate plan for seeking medical help.
- If you have a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the hospital emergency room immediately.
- Pets can also experience health effects from wildfire smoke. They may experience eye, respiratory tract, skin, or other irritations. Keep pets indoors as much as possible during this wildfire smoke event. Call a veterinarian if your pet experiences any symptoms.
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