Metro air quality suffers from fires to the south

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- The Douglas County Health Department says the air quality Wednesday morning is in the unhealthy category.

That means people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. All others should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

Russ Hadan, supervisor of the Douglas County Health Departments air quality program, said this morning’s conditions are due to smoke from Tuesday’s fires in northeast Kansas and Oklahoma. Conditions should improve throughout the morning as winds are expected to move the smoke out of the area. One way to know what is happening is to monitor conditions at airnow.gov.

People in Douglas County and the surrounding area should monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) for the next few days as winds and continued fires in Kansas and Oklahoma could push air back into the “unhealthy” category. This is expected to come from particulate matter in the air.

It is important for individuals with lung disease, respiratory disease or a heart condition to monitor the air quality. Parents should monitor conditions for their children. If you’re healthy, a short-term exposure to smoke usually does not pose a major health risk.

Everyone should take the following steps when smoke is present:

  • Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it's probably not a good time to go outside for strenuous exercise.
  • Pay attention to local air quality reports. You can monitor the conditions at airnow.gov. Simply wait for the U.S. map to appear, then click on Omaha and zoom in. That page includes the forecast, and provides hourly updates.
  • If you are advised to stay indoors, take steps to keep indoor air as clean as possible. Try to avoid using anything that burns. Don't vacuum and don't smoke.
  • If you have asthma or other lung disease, make sure you follow your doctor's directions about taking your medicines and following your asthma management plan. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.