Health Risks Associated with Wildfire Smoke

Alachua and surrounding northern counties have at times been experiencing heavy smoke from dozens of wildfires burning in north Florida. Citizens are cautioned that smoke is a respiratory irritant that can cause scratchy throat or irritated eyes and nose. Smoke can also worsen conditions such as asthma and other chronic respiratory or lung conditions.

“Citizens, especially children and the elderly should take steps to avoid prolonged exposure to heavy smoke” said Anthony Dennis, Environmental Health Director, Alachua County Health Department.

How to protect your family from smoke:

  • Pay attention to local air quality reports, news coverage or health warnings related to smoke.
  • Use common sense when outside conditions are smoky. Avoid prolonged outdoor activities. It is especially important to limit time spent outdoors for children and persons with existing medical conditions.
  • Stay indoors and run your air conditioner, if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. For best results, run the air conditioning with recirculated air. If you don’t have an air conditioner, use a fan if available.

Note: If you do not have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In these cases, seek alternative shelter.

  • Help keep particle levels lower inside. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves and even candles. Do not vacuum, which stirs up particles already inside your home. Also do not smoke tobacco.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice about taking medicines and following your asthma management plan if you have asthma or other lung disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

For additional information, contact the Alachua County Health Department at 352-334-7930.