The New Mexico Department of Health advises residents to learn how to protect themselves and their families from smoke exposure this fire season. The Department of Health has prepared the NM EPHT Environmental Exposures: Fire, Smoke and Your Health page with information to help you protect your health and plan your actions during emergencies.
“Wildfires can spread rapidly, and the smoke can quickly affect air quality,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “It is important to understand the health hazards that can come from these fires.”
According to a reading today from an air quality monitor set up in Silver City by the US Forest Service, the local air quality has been slightly impacted as a result of the Signal Fire. Air quality may change if the fire continues to spread and/or weather conditions change. As drought conditions continue in New Mexico, other fires are likely to occur in the state this season.
Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke
Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and particles from burning trees and other plant material. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.
Since New Mexico typically has very low humidity, visibility is an easy way to determine if it is healthy to be outside when smoke is present. Use the 5-3-1 visibility method to determine if smoke might impact your health. First, decide if the visibility is closer to 5 miles, 3 miles or 1 mile using Visibility Mapping Tool to determine distances from where you are right now. Then make the decision that’s right for you. That might mean reducing outdoor activities or staying inside until the air quality improves.
Regardless of the visibility, if you are feeling as though you are having health problems from smoke, take precautions to avoid breathing in smoke and see your doctor or other health professional as needed. Smoke can cause:
- A scratchy throat
- Irritated sinuses
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Stinging eyes
- A runny nose
Individuals with heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma, need to be aware that they may be at higher risk for experiencing health problems than those without these conditions. If you have symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to excess smoke exposure, including repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, heart palpitations, nausea, unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, contact your health care provider.
Listen and watch the news for health warnings about smoke. When you are advised to stay indoors, keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed. If it is extremely hot, you can run an air conditioner but not a swamp cooler.
Get more stay cool tips from the Heat Stress web page.
We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.