Jackson County and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) public health officials are advising schools and athletic departments to be aware of wildfire smoke and utilize the Public Health Guidance for School Outdoor Activities During Wildfire Smoke Events to make decisions as it pertains to youth having recess, P.E., athletic practices, and events outdoors.
School officials are encouraged to check the local Air Quality Index on the DEQ website and then do a visual inspection outside. Performing a visibility test is important because air monitors report out using an hour and 24-hour average, and smoke levels can rise and fall very quickly. It is recommended to err on the side of caution.
“Children are particularly sensitive to smoke because their respiratory systems are still developing. In addition, their airways are smaller, and they breathe in more air per pound body weight. Schools should consider more indoor exercise options when air quality is at unhealthy and unhealthy for sensitive groups due to wildfire smoke,” says Dr. Shames, Jackson County Public Health, Health Officer.
During a wildfire, Jackson County and OHA public health officials advise that adults watch for symptoms that youth may experience from wildfire smoke. Wildfire smoke can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger asthma attacks. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Even students without known asthma can have symptoms when exposed to unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke pollution. Students with asthma should follow their Asthma Action Plan. This will help them decide if they need to take special precautions while engaging in outdoor activities. Athletes with asthma should have rescue inhalers readily available. Use should be as directed by their health care provider. Anyone experiencing symptoms should contact a health care provider. Call 911 in an emergency.
For more information about wildfires and health threats from wildfire smoke, go to http://public.health.oregon.gov/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForWildfire.aspx