Richard Hahn, Poudre Valley Hospital's chief respiratory therapist, offers these tips for preventing or mitigating respiratory and breathing problems while wildfires like the High Park fire cause poor air quality:
- Individuals at high risk should be particularly aware since they may be more easily impacted by air pollution from the fire. High-risk individuals are the elderly, young children, pregnant women, or people who have such pre-existing respiratory issues as asthma, emphysema or colds.
- Symptoms can include eye, nose or throat irritation, as well as runny eyes and noses; or coughing or sore throat.
- If a person has trouble breathing or tightness of the chest, it might be necessary to go to the doctor or, depending on the severity, an emergency room.
- Monitoring air quality using the 5-mile rule: If the visibility is less than five miles when you're outside, it's time to be concerned.
- If possible, temporarily relocate to another area outside of the High Park smoke zone.
- Go to a location where air is filtered. A local mall, movie theater or recreation center, for example, might provide temporary relief.
- Close windows and remain indoors. But don't close up the indoors so tightly that it is dangerously warm.
- Run air-conditioning if there is a filter on the unit. Or run an evaporative cooler or fan system. Keep outdoor air intakes closed and make sure the unit has a filter.
- Reduce physical activity.
- Drink plenty of fluids, get ample sleep, make healthy eating choices, and give extra attention to actions that help keep people healthy.
For more information, visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's air pollution control website: http://www.colorado.gov/airquality/wildfire.aspx.