Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) encourages residents to be aware of winds that are blowing smoke from fires burning in North Georgia and parts of Tennessee into the metro Atlanta area.
Individuals with chronic heart and lung diseases are at particular risk and need to protect themselves from smoke from wildfires. People with existing respiratory conditions, young children and elderly people are especially at risk from this smoke. Chronic health problems such as lung disease, asthma, allergies and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke can occur from exposure to smoke, or smoke inhalation.
Common symptoms of smoke inhalation include irritation of the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, headaches, stinging eyes or a runny nose. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) warns that people with heart disease might experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath or fatigue. Individuals with lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as usual, and they may experience symptoms such as coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.
“It is important that residents take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this wildfire smoke, burning tree and shrub particles, and recognize the symptoms of smoke irritation so they can seek immediate medical attention if inhalation or symptoms occur. This will help ensure the safety of children suffering from asthma, the elderly or individuals with chronic heart and lung diseases, and helps prevent complications due to smoke inhalation for all residents,” said Jazmyn McCloud, chronic disease and injury prevention health education supervisor at CDPH.
DPH recommends that residents limit their exposure to smoke with these precautions:
- Use common sense. If it looks and smells smoky outside limit outdoor activities; yard work, exercise, children playing.
- Pay attention to local air quality reports and news coverage related to smoke.
- Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
- Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
- Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
- Follow the advice of your doctor or other health care provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease.
For more information about smoke and health go to www.cdc.gov/features/wildfires/.