The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) encourages residents to monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) to determine if smoke levels are unhealthy. Favorable fuel conditions on Tuesday over the Flint Hills region Kansas and Oklahoma combined with the south winds can carry smoke into Lincoln and Lancaster County on Tuesday night until Wednesday.
During this time of year, smoke from agricultural and prescribed burns can cause health problems, especially for children, older adults and people with asthma, lung disease, other respiratory conditions or heart disease. Those at risk are encouraged to control AQI before performing strenuous outdoor activity.
LLCHD monitors air quality 24 hours a day and AQI on lincoln.ne.gov (keywords: air) is updated hourly. These monitors provide air quality data to help provide health assessments to Lancaster County residents. Gary Bergstrom, air quality supervisor for LLCHD, said that the small particles and gases in smoke are inhaled in the lungs, they can cause asthma attacks, exacerbate chronic bronchitis and emphysema and cause angina (chest pain) in some people with heart disease.
The Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also supplies an AirNow smartphone application. The air quality levels are color-coded on the AQI chart:
· AQI values below 1
· AQI values between 101 and 150 (orange) indicate that air quality is unhealthy for sensitive persons. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and get quick relief medication readily available. Children, older adults and people with heart or lung disease should reduce long-term or severe exertion during outdoor activities.
· AQI values of over 150 (red, purple and maroon) show that air quality is unhealthy for all humans. Outdoor activities must be moved indoors or switched to a time when air quality improves. Children, older adults and people with asthma or heart or lung disease should avoid prolonged or severe exertion during outdoor activities. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy effort during outdoor activities and take several breaks during outdoor activities.
When air quality is unhealthy, those in danger can further protect their health by staying indoors, keeping windows and doors closed and using "recirculate" mode when using an air conditioner for the vehicle. Those who have difficulty breathing, coughing, unusual fatigue, palpitations, chest cramps or angina should contact a doctor.
For more information on LLCHD, visit lincoln.ne.gov/health.