Air quality, issues for people with asthma

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Smoke from wildfires throughout the Pacific Northwest is prompting a state-wide air quality advisory. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is issuing this advisory until Thursday at 10 a.m.

The air quality is in the moderate to very unhealthy categories throughout most of the state and it's predicted to stay that way for the next two days. Those with asthma are advised to stay inside as much as possible.

"We see a lot more frequent asthma attacks when the air quality is poor," said Dr. Tyler Mayo, a physician at Southeast Idaho Family Practice in Idaho Falls.

There are a few ways wildfire smoke can affect you if you have asthma.

"One way is if they're actually allergic to the particles -- they can have an allergic type reaction that affects their breathing," Mayo said.

Asthma and allergies are closely related; when there's a problem with one, there are often problems with the other.

"The other way that we can be affected by the air quality is just the particles getting into the airway and causing irritation and swelling and triggering asthma attacks," Mayo said.

If you use an inhaler, make sure it's within reach and not outdated.

"Second, most asthmatics are going to do better with poor air quality if they stay indoors, or keep the windows to their car rolled up," Mayo said.

You don't want to let outside air into a place with clean air. Keep the polluted air out and away from your lungs.

"Some people do attempt to use masks, but most of the general dust masks that we have are not going to do a good job with filtering out these types of particles," Mayo said.

There are specialized masks with HEPA filters that can help. But sometimes, if people are already having difficulty breathing, they will also have a hard time breathing through these masks.

So the doctor's orders are to try to avoid the outside air all together.

The above map shows the current wildfires in and around the Gem State. It highlights fires that are larger than 1,000 acres. The pins in blue are the air quality monitor locations.

This other map is the United States Forest Service air quality map. The orange dots are moderate levels -- showing at Idaho Falls, Rexburg and Twin Falls. The red dots are dangerous air quality, shown at Boise and moving north.

All open burning is prohibited under this air quality advisory. Updates on air quality conditions across southeast Idaho can be found here.

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