The air in the Treasure Valley is definitely gritty and mucky, but be glad you are not in the Ketchum area.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality just issued a red air quality alert for Ketchum, which has an air quality index of 165.
The Treasure Valley is under a yellow air quality alert with an air quality index of 81.
Because of wildfire activity and weather patterns, air quality conditions are not expected to significantly improve over the weekend.
The DEQ has extended the Treasure Valleys yellow alert through Monday.
Ketchums air quality forecast calls for an orange alert through the weekend.
The Idaho Department of Welfare and Welfare says people exposed to smoke may experience symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath.
To reduce their exposure to smoke and protect their health, public health officials recommend:
Everyone should avoid outdoor heavy work or exercise when the air quality index reaches the red or higher category.
Older adults, small children, and those with respiratory conditions or heart disease may be more sensitive to poor air quality and should stay indoors and avoid heavy work when air quality reaches unhealthy levels;
Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps dilute phlegm in the respiratory tract making it easier to cough smoke particles out. Plan on coughing, it is natures way of clearing your lungs. Avoid caffeine products, sugary drinks and alcohol as they have a dehydrating effect.
Stay cool if the weather is warm. Run your air conditioner to re-circulate air. Turn the fan blower on manually so it continuously filters the air in your home.
For homes without a central heating and/or cooling system, use portable air purifiers to remove particles (air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are best, avoid using air purifiers that produce ozone). Visit areas in your community that have air conditioning, such as a library.
If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses in a smoky environment.
Older adults, infants, children and people with medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease are more affected. People who use inhalers for asthma or other conditions should keep them close at hand.
People are advised to seek medical treatment for uncontrolled coughing, wheezing, choking, or if breathing difficulty continues once they are indoors.
How does the AQI work?
The Idaho DEQ uses an air quality index (AQI) to report on the levels of five pollutants (small particulates, large particulates, ozone, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide). In the Treasure Valley particulates and ozone are usually the culprits during poor air quality days.
Think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.
For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value greater than 300 represents hazardous air quality.
An AQI value of 100 generally corresponds to the national air quality standard for the pollutant, which is the level EPA has set to protect public health.
When AQI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy at first for certain sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as AQI values increase.
To make it easier to understand, the AQI is divided into six categories:
Green Good, 0-50: Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.
Yellow Moderate, 51-100: Air quality is acceptable; however, for some, pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.
Orange Unhealthy for sensitive groups, 101-150: Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected.
Red Unhealthy, 151-200: Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
Purple Very unhealthy, 201-300: Health alert everyone may experience more serious health effects.
Maroon Hazardous, 301-500: Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.