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Posted on: June 21, 2021

Heat and Smoke: Staying Safe During Summer

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Summer brings fun and activities, but also hotter days and seasonal wildfire smoke. The severity of heat waves or smoky stretches can vary, but both heat and smoke can be dangerous. These tips can help you stay safe through the season.

Heat

  • Don’t underestimate the dangers of heat. It is one of the most life-threatening weather-related dangers in the U.S., with hundreds of deaths each year, according to the National Weather Service. Heat strains the body even with relatively short exposure.
  • A list of cooling stations in Snohomish County is available at www.snohd.org/weather.. 
  • If you are working outside in the heat, limit your time and exposure by taking frequent breaks to cool down, hydrate often with water, use sunscreen and stay to the shade as much as possible, and pay attention for signs of heat-related illness, such as headache, dizziness, disorientation, nausea or weakness. Avoid working outside during excessive heat – wait for a cooler day, or a cooler time of the day.
  • Certain groups are extra vulnerable to becoming ill from heat exposure. These include: infants and young children, older adults, anyone with pre-existing or chronic medical conditions, people with limited mobility, and pregnant women. If someone in your life fits into one of those groups, be sure to check in with them during hot weather, particularly if they live alone or live in conditions where staying cool can be challenging, such as if they do not have air-conditioning or other cooling options at home.
  • No matter what the temperature is, it is never safe to leave a child or a disabled adult alone in a vehicle. The same is true for pets. At home, remember to keep your car doors locked when the vehicle is unattended so that children cannot climb inside to play and get stuck. Temperatures rise rapidly in vehicles and the heat can quickly become fatal.

Smoke

  • Wildfire smoke is dangerous for anyone to breathe. Some groups can be particularly sensitive to it, including older adults, pregnant women, infants and children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions.
  • Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause coughing, trouble breathing, wheezing, chest pain, scratchy throat, runny nose, stinging eyes, headache, fatigue, rapid or weak heartbeat, and may trigger problems such as an asthma attack.
  • Limit exposure to smoke as much as possible. Monitor air quality reports, such as those from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. When there are wildfires, keep track of local news reports as well as advisories from fire agencies or public health agencies.
  • When notified of poor air quality, stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible by closing doors and windows, as well as keeping the fresh-air intake on your air conditioner (if you have one) closed and the filter clean. If you cannot stay inside safely with doors and windows closed because it is too hot and you do not have air conditioning, seek shelter elsewhere, such as with a friend, family member, or at a local cooling station. Public places like libraries may be good options to stay cool and out of the smoke. 
  • Do not add pollution by using anything that burns, either indoors or outdoors.
  • Do not rely on masks – such as dust masks or cloth face coverings – to filter out wildfire smoke. Consider using a freestanding indoor air filter if you are someone with underlying conditions such as asthma or heart disease, or if you live with someone who has such underlying conditions. Be sure to follow manufacturer’s instruction for the filter.

For more information, check out the following resources:

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