Holy Smokes - Your Health & the Florida Wildfires

Posted on Jun 17th 2011 by Florida Blue

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If you are in Florida, you’ve been waking up to the smell of smoke and/or seeing the ash sprinkles. The Miami Herald reports that brush fires over 70,000 acres in the West Miami-Dade area and Everglades fire.  Add to that the 4,306-acre Espanola Fire that engulfed Flagler County, as well as several other wildfires that have consumed counties up and down the coast, and Floridians have been experiencing some difficulty with their air quality.
For more on wildfires in the State of Florida, check out the below map or visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Forestry
We, at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, want to help with information on what you can do to offset the hazards presented by the smoke and related pollutants.
Here are some tips we gathered from our research and from talking to our health experts:
  • Stay inside as much as possible, with doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and/or air cleaners. The EPA suggests using air cleaners that were bought before a fire.
  • While Inside or driving, use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not travel. Make sure your keep your windows and vents closed while driving
  • Ordinary dust masks may not help as they may still allow the finer particles to pass through. The American Lung Association recommends that special dust masks with true HEPA filters will filter out the damaging fine particles but are difficult for people with lung disease to use. Consult with your physician before using a mask, especially if you have a lung disease.
  • If you live close to or in the surrounding area of the fires, the recommendation is to abstain from exercising outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or are noticing eye or throat irritation.
     Extra precaution should be taken for:
  • children, since they are more susceptible to smoke because of their developing respiratory systems and since they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) per pound of body mass than adults.
  • people with asthma, who should check with their physician regarding any changes in medication that may be needed to cope with the smoky conditions.
For more information on respiratory health please contact the American Lung Association by calling 1-800-LUNGUSA. As always, if you notice symptoms like a persistent cough, or have difficulty breathing, contact your physician.  
You can also check your air quality at the EPA site: http://www.airnow.gov/

Filed under: Healthy Living  

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