By George T. Roberts, Jr.

Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials.  Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung disease.
Common symptoms of smoke exposure include:
• Coughing     • Shortness of breath
• Chest pain    • Scratchy throat
• Runny nose    • Irritated sinuses
• Headaches     • Stinging eyes
Smoke may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience some of these symptoms.  Limit your exposure to smoke.  Following are ways to protect your health:
If you experience any of these symptoms, take the following measures:
• Limit outdoor activities as much as possible.
• Keep the windows and doors of your home shut.
• Run the air conditioner with the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.  If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.
• Avoid cooking as much as possible.
• Don’t burn candles or use fireplaces.
• Do not use vacuum cleaners which can stir up dust already inside your home.
• Keep your airways moist by drinking plenty of water. To help relieve dryness, breathe through a warm, wet cloth.
If you have asthma or other lung disease, follow your doctor’s advice about medicine and call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.  Be careful when traveling as smoke from the wildfires can pose serious visibility issues in some areas.  For more information, stay tuned to local radio or television.