Protecting our family members, animals, homes, and businesses is top of list for everyone in wildfire prone areas. This year, we have been experiencing some very poor air quality days due to fires that are far afield from us here in Southern Colorado. We can’t protect ourselves from all the effects of smoke, but we can learn more and take better care of ourselves.
People who are generally healthy may not feel much from smoke, but over a period of days the impact may range from sore throat to shortness of breath. Those who already have compromised lung capacity may experience impacts early on. Knowing what the conditions really are can help us be proactive about taking the precautions that will help us feel our best on any given day.
Understand your risk level. Monitoring the air quality is a good place to start. Knowing what constitutes a “dangerous” level can help you make better decisions. “Like air pollution, wildfire smoke — and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns — can affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems,” said Colleen Reid, an environmental epidemiologist and health geographer at the University of Colorado Boulder.
A number of online resources provide real-time readings. Both sites below include local air quality data from the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) sensor located in Pagosa Springs with recommendations on what those levels may mean for your risk category.
Helping Others. You can take the precautions above to help yourself and still help others. If you are able to get out but know of a neighbor or a friend who has challenges when the air quality is poor, you can offer to run errands, walk their dog, or water their garden.