NP Answers your FAQ: HOW CAN I STAY HEALTHY AFTER THE WILDFIRES?

   Last week’s (October 2007) devastating wildfires have significantly impacted the air quality in San Diego. We are all breathing air filled with small particles that could be dangerous to our health.

Some experts compare conditions in the San Diego area, especially in areas closer to the fires, to that of Ground Zero in New York after Sept. 11, 2001. Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn.  The biggest health threat from smoke comes from fine particles which can get into your eyes and respiratory system  

We have seen an increase in students coming to our clinic this week reporting health problems related to smoke exposure, such as breathing difficulties, sore throats and eye irritation. Many students with asthma are  using their inhalers more frequently. Students are asking when it will be safe to return to their usual outdoor activities, sports, running etc. According to the American Lung Association, even as the wildfires wind down, lingering smoke and ash may present serious health risks for many weeks to come.

Recommendations from the ALA for the next few weeks:

1)      Limit outdoor activities to only what is absolutely necessary

2)      Check local air quality on a daily basis. The CSUSM has an excellentweb site which gives current Air Quality Index information:www.csusm.edu/rms. Click Firestorm 2007 for comprehensive information.

3)      When driving, keep car windows closed and air circulating.

4)      HEPA air purifiers are most effective.       

5)      Restrict strenuous exercise to indoor environments

6)      Keep pets indoors as much as possible

7)      Know that ordinary dust and surgical masks do not filter out many of the impurities in the air. N-95 masks, available at Home Depot, many hardware stores and medical supply companies, provide better protection.     

For the most up-to-date information on air quality in your area, check theabove referenced web site: www.csusm.edu/rms. Other helpful sites are airnow.gov or sdapcd.org.   

If you are experiencing symptoms related to the recent wildfires or are feeling anxious from being part of the evacuations and/or witnessing the losses associated with the fires, please call Student Health and Counseling Services to set up an appointment. We will be happy to help you.

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