Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19

  • Wildfire smoke from the Pine Gulch Fire burning about 20 miles north of Grand Junction is causing air quality concerns. Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) is urging residents to take action to protect themselves from wildfire smoke.
  • Air quality monitors Wednesday show AQI levels in the unhealthy, or red (between 151-250) category with more severe impacts at the east end of the valley near Palisade. At these levels, everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, not just sensitive groups. If you develop symptoms suggesting lung or heart problems, consult a health care provider as soon as possible.
  • Critical fire weather conditions continue with a red flag warning in place for Mesa and several surrounding counties with gusty winds, low relative humidity and dry fuels expected to increase fire activity. 

Strategies to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
    • Limit outdoor exercise or choose lower-intensity activities.
    • Keep doors and windows tightly closed to decrease the amount of smoke that could enter.
    • Create a clean room, with filtered air at home.
  • Use air conditioners, fans, and window shades to keep your indoor air space cool.
    • Evaporative coolers, known as “swamp coolers” should be turned off during periods of heavy smoke unless there is a heat emergency. These coolers rely on bringing outside air into the home and won’t cool effectively if the home is sealed up so air can be released. 
  • Use caution while inside your vehicle.
    • Keep windows and vents closed.
    • Turn the air conditioning to “recirculate” mode.
  • Wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more susceptible to lung infections, including COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 and smoke exposure can have similar symptoms, but it’s important to know the difference.
    • Symptoms that are similar are dry cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing.
    • If you experience symptoms such as fever or chills, muscle or body aches, and diarrhea, call MCPH COVID-19 hotline at 970-683-2300 to be screened for testing as these are not related to smoke exposure.
  • Avoid activities that create smoke or other air pollutants to decrease indoor particle levels including:
    • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.
    • Spraying aerosol products.
    • Frying or broiling food.
    • Burning candles or incense. 
    • Vacuuming, unless you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

Preparation is key:

  • Recommendations if you are at risk for smoke exposure include maintaining nonperishable groceries not requiring cooking. 
  • People with chronic diseases should check with their health care provider about precautions ahead of smoke events and have adequate supply of medication available.
  • People who experience asthma should have a written asthma action plan.

Some people are more at risk of harmful health effects from wildfire smoke than others, including:

  • Children less than 18 years old
  • Adults aged 65 years or older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic health conditions such as heart or lung disease, asthma, and diabetes
  • Outdoor workers
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness or those who have limited access to medical care
  • People who are immunocompromised or taking drugs that suppress the immune system. 
  • Stage 1 Fire Restrictions are in place in Mesa County, open burning of any kind is not allowed.
  • For more information on local air quality conditions, and to view conditions in real time through community sourced purple air monitors visit health.mesacounty.us

Comments are closed.

//]]>