LOS ANGELES – According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, smoke from Woolsey Fire has caused unhealthy air quality that affects everyone in areas directly impacted by smoke, including portions of:
Central Los Angeles County
Northwest Coastal LA County
Southwest Coastal LA County
South Coastal LA
West San Fernando Valley
East San Fernando Valley
Santa Clarita Valley
San Gabriel Mountains
“As residents begin to return home and start cleaning after being evacuated, they are more likely to come in contact with ash and soot, especially in areas that were close to or damaged by the fire. Please remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Health Officer for Los Angeles County. “If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell of smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health. These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults and people with heart or lung diseases.”
Dr. Davis urges everyone in these areas, or areas where there is visible smoke or the smell of smoke, to avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and to limit physical exertion (whether indoor or outdoor), such as exercise. Children and people who have air quality sensitive conditions, such as heart disease, asthma, and other chronic respiratory diseases, should follow these recommendations and stay indoors as much as possible even in areas where smoke, soot, or ash cannot be seen or there is no smell of smoke. If your condition worsens, contact your health care provider immediately for medical advice.
Wildfire smoke is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor. The primary health concern is the small particles. These small particles can cause burning eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, headaches and illness (i.e., bronchitis). In people with sensitive conditions, they can cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, fatigue, and/or chest pain.
“We are also advising schools and recreational programs that are in session in smoke-impacted areas to suspend outside physical activities in these areas, including physical education and after-school sports, until conditions improve. Non-school related sports organizations for children and adults are advised to cancel outdoor practices and competitions in areas where there is visible smoke, soot, or ash, or where there is a smell of smoke. This also applies to other recreational outdoor activity, such as hikes or picnics, in these areas,” said Dr. Davis.
People can participate in indoor sports or other strenuous activity in areas with visible smoke, soot, or ash, provided the indoor location has air conditioning that does not draw air from the outside and it has closed windows and doors to protect the cleanliness of indoor air. If not, it is recommended that everyone follow these guidelines as if they were outside.
The following recommendations will help you protect yourself and your family from harmful effects of bad air quality:
– If you see or smell smoke, or see a lot of particles and ash in the air, avoid unnecessary outdoor activity to limit your exposure to harmful air. This is especially important for those with heart or lung disease (including asthma), the elderly and children.
– If outdoor air is bad, try to keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed. – Air conditioners that re-circulate air within the home can help filter out harmful particles.
– Avoid using air conditioning units that only draw in air from the outside or that do not have a re-circulating option. Residents should check the filters on their air conditioners and replace them regularly. Indoor air filtration devices with HEPA filters can further reduce the level of particles that circulate indoors.
– If it is too hot during the day to keep the doors or windows closed and you do not have an air conditioning unit that re-circulates indoor air, consider going to an air conditioned public place, such as a library or shopping center, to stay cool and to protect yourself from harmful air.
– Do not use fireplaces (either wood burning or gas), candles, and vacuums. Use damp cloths to clean dusty indoor surfaces. Do not smoke.
– If you have symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to smoke exposure, including severe coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, contact your doctor immediately or go to an urgent care center. If life threatening, please contact 911.
– When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not be able to see them. Wearing a mask may prevent exposures to large particles. However, most masks do not prevent exposure to fine particles and toxic gases, which may be more dangerous to your health.
– Practice safe clean-up following a fire. Follow the ash clean-up and food safety instructions at http://bit.ly/SafeFireCleanup.
The following is recommended for pets:
– Avoid leaving your pets outdoors, particularly at night. Pets should be brought into an indoor location, such as an enclosed garage or a house.
– If dogs or cats appear to be in respiratory distress, they should be taken to an animal hospital immediately. Symptoms of respiratory distress for dogs include panting and/or an inability to catch their breath. Symptoms for cats are less noticeable, but may include panting and/or an inability to catch their breath.