Even healthy people might want to forgo their morning run or bike rides this week, when the air will be fouled with smoke from the ongoing wildfire in the Everglades, health officials said Tuesday.
People with breathing problems and children should minimize contact with the bad air by staying in air-conditioned buildings whenever possible. Everyone else also may want to avoid breathing the smoky air deep into their lungs when exercising, officials said. Smoke from wood fires can carry fine particles of as many as 200 chemicals.
"Why expose yourself to that? It's similar to second-hand cigarette smoke," said Dr. Mike Feinstein, program director at the American Lung Association office in West Palm Beach.
Don't expect much relief the rest of the week. Starting about midnight every day, winds from the west will blow smoke over Broward, Miami-Dade and the southern half of Palm Beach counties. It will hang around until the wind changes to blowing from the east and cleans the air by noon, said Jeral Estupiñan, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
While most people will not be harmed or bothered by anything but the odor, those with lung issues can quickly develop shortness of breath, throat irritation, stinging eyes and even chest pain when exposed to the dirty air, said officials at the Broward County Health Department.
Most vulnerable are those with asthma, lung disease and other chronic illnesses that reduce oxygen levels in the body. Also, infants, children and pregnant women can be affected.
Here's how to cope:
Stay inside in air conditioning, which filters out most or all of the small particles and is the best defense. At home, make sure the AC filters are clean.
Avoid strenuous activities that draw fine particles deep into the lungs. Try an indoor workout.
Masks don't do much good but those rated N95 or higher may help if well-sealed around mouth and nose. They sell for about $16 for a box of 20. Bandanas and wet cloths are mostly useless.
Don't halt your normal medications, and use fast-acting inhalers more often if necessary.
Call your doctor if coughing, irritation or other symptoms impair normal activities.
"In just a few minutes, I had shortness of breath and coughing – coughing a lot," said asthma sufferer Andrew Cuddihy, program director at the American Lung Association office in Fort Lauderdale, who said he got sick after walking his dog Tuesday morning.
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