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Department of Health Services

For Immediate Release

Air Quality Health Advisory

Santa Rosa,CA | August 22, 2020

Health officials urge Sonoma County residents to limit outdoor activity due to the poor air quality caused by wildfires burning in Sonoma County and throughout Northern California. People may experience adverse health effects from the smoke and ash filling skies over Sonoma County and across the region. Members of sensitive groups may experience effects that are more serious. These groups include children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease. They are most at risk for harmful impacts.

People with health conditions should:

  • Contact your health care provider if you have concerns regarding your health condition.
  • Those with heart or lung disease, older adults, pregnant individuals, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion, and should either reschedule outdoor activities or move them to another location.
  • Elevated particulate matter in the air can trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or other respiratory conditions.
  • Asthmatics should follow their asthma management plan.
  • Keep up to two weeks’ worth of extra medication on hand. Be ready with plans to treat asthma or diabetes when there is smoke.
  • Individuals should contact their physician if they have cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms believed to be caused by smoke. Concerned individuals should consult their physician for personalized recommendations.
  • Consider leaving the affected area if there is a prolonged smoke event.

Limit time spent outdoors if the smell of smoke is present. Protect your health by following these habits:

  • Shelter in place. Staying indoors with windows and doors closed, where the air quality is better, is the best way to protect your health. During high heat and heavy smoke events, keep indoor air cool.
  • Plan to go to a cleaner air location, if you are unable to seal your home or if dense smoke occurs during hot weather events and you cannot stay in your home. Heat takes precedent over smoke.
  • Set air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to keep outside air from moving inside.   
  • Run your home or car air conditioner on recycle or recirculate. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.
  • Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing cough, a dry scratchy throat, runny nose, trouble breathing, and irritated sinuses. Stay hydrated by drinking water during heavy smoke events.
  • Because of the serious air quality conditions, residents should avoid adding additional air pollution by curtailing wood burning, lawn mowing and leaf blowing, driving, and barbecuing.

COVID-19 is circulating in our community, and the best way to protect yourself from the virus and poor air quality is to stay indoors. Face coverings should be worn if in proximity to others outside your household, both indoor and outdoor.

  • If you are in an affected area and need to leave your home, ensure you practice physical distancing, cover your cough, wash your hands frequently, and always wear face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wear an N-95 mask if possible. Masks with valves or vents, however, are not recommended as they do not prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Bandanas and typical surgical masks do nothing to protect against wildfire smoke particles but are recommended for protection against COVID- 19.
  • Taking a mask on and off can cause fine particulate matter and virus particles to build up in the mask, which the wearer will breathe when it is put back on the face.

Air Quality Monitoring (AQI) Resources:

When checking the AQI, please note that federal certified monitors at EPA’s AirNow Fires site are most accurate (but have an update lag of 2-3 hours).