RAPID CITY, S.D. – If you’ve been outside in the last few days, you may have noticed that the sky has been getting pretty hazy. That haze can be attributed to smoke from wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, mainly Idaho.
Wildfire smoke in the area is nothing new for this time of year.
As the peak of fire season for the western U.S. picks up, we will see more days where the sky is filled with smoke than not.
The peak of fire season lasts through October, which can be very detrimental to people with sensitive lungs.
According to the CDC, symptoms that can arise from the inhalation of wildfire smoke can resemble allergies, with the addition of coughing, headaches and an increased heartrate.
Wildfire smoke is made up of many different particulates that are a variety of sizes. These particulates are so small that they need to be measured in microns, which are 1/1000 of a millimeter.
For reference, the size of a human hair is around 70 microns. The most harmful particulates in wildfire smoke can be smaller than 2.5 microns, three times smaller than red blood cells.
Because of their size, they are able to pass through your lungs and enter your bloodstream and can cause a lot of damage. Inhalation of wildfire smoke has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and can cancer.
The most sensitive groups include the elderly, pregnant women, children and people who have a history of respiratory or heart related illnesses.
The best ways to decrease the effect that wildfire smoke has on you are to stay indoors whenever possible, use an air purifier in your home, don’t add to indoor pollution by lighting candles, and if you do have to go outside, wear a well-fitted N95 mask.
During wildfire season, make sure to pay attention to the air quality levels. You can do so by visiting this air quality monitoring website, where you can click on the marker closest to your location for more information.
As drought conditions continue, this will always be an issue at the end of summer going into the fall.