As smoky air remains in the valley, doctors urge caution

Posted at 5:23 PM, Sep 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-06 19:23:41-04

Smoke continues to blanket the Treasure Valley, keeping our air quality in the red -- or considered the "unhealthy" category -- even at times jumping into the purple alert today. 

Local doctors say it's more important to protect your respiratory health and be on the lookout of symptoms of smoke inhalation. 

Doctors say being outside right now is just like sitting in front of a campfire. The smoke we're seeing contains micro particles of ash -- dangerous to our lungs.

"What it does to your lung, is it deposits into the small airways of the lung, and there it can cause injury," said Dr. James Souza, Chief Medical Officer at St. Luke's. 

And masks won't do much to protect you. 

"It makes you feel better, wearing the mask, but it doesn't do anything to limit the particulate size that's going to enter your lungs," said Owen Seatz, a Respiratory Therapist at St. Al's. "This is a very fine particulate matter that's in the air right now." 

"I do have some difficulty in breathing," said Shirl Boyce, Treasure Valley resident. "The sinuses and all of that, but it does affect, and it slows me down."

Those with lung or heart disease are especially vulnerable, but even for healthy folks, doctors are recommending limiting outside exposure to 30 minutes or less. 

"There's a small chance, but a real chance, that heavy exercise in this sort of environment can cause permanent injury to the lung," Souza said. 

Relief may be near. The Department of Environmental Quality is hoping winds from the southwest will help clear some of the smoke we're seeing in the air.

"What we're hoping, if we do get that change, that we'll start seeing some relief and have those levels drop slowly over the weekend," said Mike Toole, DEQ spokesman. "Maybe not give us a complete scrubbing and cleaning out, but at least get us out of the red."

In the meantime, we have some On Your Side tips for you:

  • Stay indoors and run the air conditioner to avoid the smoke;
  • If you have to be outside, don't exert yourself;
  • And if smoke inhalation symptoms -- like runny nose, congestion and cough -- persist, see your doctor.