With fires in Colorado and Wyoming, you may have noticed a smoky haze in the air in Laramie and the surrounding area. For some this smoke is more than just a visual haze, it is a health hazard. People with specific health conditions are at a higher risk of the affects of smoke exposure and inhalation. There are a few simple precautions that can be taken by people who are at high risk of adverse health effects due to smoke exposure.


Who is at risk of smoke exposure?

Smoke exposure is a very real and dangerous risk for people in Laramie and the surrounding area. According to John Scandrett M.D., an emergency room doctor at Ivinson Memorial Hospital, the smoke levels in Laramie are not at high enough levels to affect the average healthy person. People at the highest risk of smoke exposure include very young children, elderly persons and people with heart and lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and congestive heart failure. These factors put people at a higher risk of experiencing adverse health symptoms due to smoke exposure.

What are the symptoms of smoke exposure?

Symptoms of smoke exposure can vary from person to person. For most healthy adults, the smoke levels in our air have little to no effect. For some, however, smoky air results in allergy-like symptoms such as sore and watery eyes, runny nose and a slight cough. For those with existing heart and lung condition, these symptoms can be more extreme and exposure to smoke can even make these kinds of conditions worse.

What should you do to avoid smoke exposure?

It can be difficult to completely avoid exposure to smoke in the air, but there are some precautions you can take to prevent some contact. If you or someone in your household is at a higher risk of smoke exposure, be sure to keep your doors and windows closed.

For those with asthma, use an air conditioner if at all possible or go to an air conditioned public place like a library or store. If you use an air conditioner, put it on “recirculate”. This will prevent your air conditioner from bringing in air from outside and will provide your house’s air with a constant filter. The “recirculate” mode should be used in your vehicle as well.

Masks can also be used for those who are at high risk for unwanted smoke related symptoms. Only those with severe lung and heart conditions are in need of using masks when outdoors, according to Doctor Scandrett. If you do need to use a mask, spraying some water onto the mask can help the filtering process.

Is it ok for children to still play outdoors?

Most days there is little risk for kids who like to play outdoors. Small children who do not have asthma or other lung or heart conditions are not at a high risk for smoke exposure with the low levels of smoke in Laramie. However, if the smoke is very thick and you can smell it, parents are advised to bring their children indoors just in case.

We are still early in the fire season. Smoke is already in the air, and may worsen as the dry summer continues. While most people in Laramie are not at a high risk of health problems due to smoke exposure, these tips can help those who have conditions which could be worsened by smoke. If you are at high risk of smoke exposure, please follow these helpful hints to reduce your risk.