The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) has issued a health advisory for the general public because of smoke from agricultural and prescribed burning. Officials said smoke in the air is expected to reach levels that are unhealthy for everyone, and that the smoke levels pose an elevated risk to children, older adults and those with asthma, lung disease, other respiratory conditions or heart disease. The LLCHD advises everyone to reduce strenuous physical activity when outdoors, take plenty of breaks and watch for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans, and have quick relief medicine readily available. Children, older adults, and those with heart or lung diseases should avoid outdoor activities.
Gary Bergstrom, Air Quality Supervisor for the LLCHD, said southerly winds combined with widespread burning activity in and around the Flint Hills area of Kansas on Friday may result in unhealthy levels of smoke in the air, and that the smoke may linger through the morning hours on Saturday.
Bergstrom said when the tiny particles and gases in smoke are breathed into the lungs, they can cause asthma attacks, worsen chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and cause angina (chest pain) in some people with heart disease.
The LLCHD monitors air quality 24 hours a day, and the Air Quality Index (AQI) at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: air) is updated daily hourly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also provides the 'AirNow' and 'SmokeSense' smart phone applications to help people stay informed of the AQI in their area. When the AQI is coded orange, it means the air quality is unhealthy for individuals with higher sensitivity to air pollution. When the AQI is coded red, it means the air quality is unhealthy for everyone.
When air quality is unhealthy, those at risk can further protect their health by staying indoors, keeping windows and doors closed, using a HEPA filter, and using the "re-circulate" setting when using a vehicle air conditioner. Those who have trouble breathing, or who experience coughing, unusual fatigue, heart palpitations, tightness in the chest, or angina should contact a medical care provider.
For more information on LLCHD, visit health.lincoln.ne.gov.