Keeping healthy in hazy and smoke-filled weather

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 7:31 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The hazy skies across the state are a reminder that wildfires out West cannot only affect the weather, but health as well.

According to the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, so far Eastern South Dakota has seen only slight smoke. The skies look to get even hazier in the next few days however, leading to more chances for unsafe air quality. While almost all of the smoke in the area is lofted high into the atmosphere due to the distance from the fires, the air can still become smoke-filled in the right conditions. It’s a problem Southeastern Wyoming is already dealing with, as Tyler Brady, a CRMC physician assistant explains.

“Especially in our vulnerable population, people with asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease air quality has a direct impact on people. We see that the air quality is as bad at a time like this from the wildfires to the west.” said Brady.

According to the CDC, even people without existing lung conditions can experience symptoms such as excessive coughing, scratchy throat, trouble breathing, and chest pain if exposed to high enough concentrations of smoke particles.

“It’s very much an individual case basis. Some people with lung disease still do quite well in air quality like this, and there some that are so sensitive we strongly advise them not to go out at all, especially when you factor in the COVID infection.” said Brady.

Currently parts of Northwestern South Dakota, Montana and North Dakota are experiencing unsafe levels of smoke particles in the atmosphere. While the National Weather Service said it’s unlikely Eastern South Dakota will see that amount of smoke near the ground, any new grass or wildfire closer to the region could add to the already hazy air.

The CDC recommends limiting outdoor activity when there are unsafe levels of smoke in the air, and to follow local guidelines. More information from the CDC about the effects of smoke-filled air can be found here. An interactive map showing current air levels can also be found here.

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