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Staying healthy during poor air quality caused by smoke

Nov 12, 2018

Smoke from multiple wildfires in the region are causing high levels of air pollution throughout San Joaquin and Sacramento Counties. Due to active wildfires and changing wind patterns, air quality could be impacted for many days to come and will be variable and unpredictable. Air quality may improve at times or get worse, very quickly. 

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District are monitoring the air quality. Even though the health risk might be rated as low, if you see or smell smoke, you are likely being impacted by it.   

Particles in the smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose, coughing, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses and headaches. Wildfires need not be nearby for these symptoms to occur; with the proper weather conditions, we can have smoke from fires far away.   

If you will be outdoors for a prolonged period of time in areas with high levels of particles in the air, it is recommended you wear an N-95 particulate respirator. This type of mask will protect your lungs from wildfire smoke. Free masks are available on the Stockton campus at Student Health Services in the Cowell Wellness Center or at the front desk of the DeRosa University Center and on the Sacramento campus at the front desk in the library (not in Dining Services as previously announced), while supplies last.  

Students who are concerned about their health due to the wildfire smoke can contact Student Health Services at 209.946.2315, option 1, or their local primary care provider. For after-hours care, please refer to Student Health Services: free nurse advice via phone, telemedicine options, and local urgent care or emergency room locations.  

Student Health Services flyer (PDF): "Protect Yourself from Smoke"

To reduce or eliminate breathing problems or other symptoms, the San Joaquin County Public Health Officer, Dr. Kismet Baldwin urges ALL residents and visitors to:   

1. Know if you or a family member is at risk  

  • If you have a heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems from smoke. 
  • Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people. 
  • Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.  

2. Take precautions to protect your health and that of your family  

  • If you see or smell smoke in your immediate area, stay indoors, if possible, with windows and doors closed and air conditioning units on recirculate to avoid drawing outside air into buildings. 
  • Keep air conditioning in the home and in the car on "re-circulating" air so that smoke is not drawn in from the outside.
  • If your home becomes too hot, consider leaving your home and visiting an indoor mall, library or a friend or relative's house that has air conditioning. 
  • Those with heart or lung disease, older adults, pregnant women and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and either move or reschedule outdoor activities. All others should also reduce prolonged or heavy exertion and take breaks during outdoor activity. 
  • Parents and school administrators are recommended to check air quality readings before allowing children outdoors while air quality is unhealthy. 
  • Make sure family members with heart disease or lung problems such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema, are following their doctor's advice about medicines and about their respiratory management plan. Call the doctor if your symptoms worsen. 
  • Because of the serious air quality conditions in parts of San Joaquin County, residents should avoid adding additional air pollution by curtailing air polluting activities such as wood burning, lawn mowing and leaf blowing, driving and barbecuing. 
  • For more information about protecting yourself from wildfire smoke, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage about wildfire smoke.

Along with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, San Joaquin County Public Health Services is monitoring the fire situation and air quality conditions and will inform residents if any additional action needs to be taken.   

Additional resources and information:  

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