The New Mexico Department of Health has issued a statewide advisory for people in areas affected by smoke from forest fires currently burning in New Mexico and Arizona. Several communities across the state have experienced haze during the past several months.
“Those people who live in areas where forest-fire smoke is present need to be aware of potential health effects where smoke is concentrated,” Health Secretary Alex Valdez said. “As a result of the prevalence of smoke in many New Mexico communities, we feel they should be aware of the following recommendations.”
Forest-fire smoke is especially harmful to persons of all ages with underlying health conditions such as asthma, emphysema and cardiovascular disease. The smoke may also aggravate pre-existing cardiovascular disease that may result in symptoms such as chest pain. It may also cause breathing discomfort or difficulty for active children and adults. Breathing smoke may result in symptoms such as chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. In healthy people, smoke from forest fires usually causes irritation of eyes, nose and throat.
The Department of Health recommends that children and adults in affected areas avoid exposure to the smoke by:
- Leaving the area until the smoke leaves the area.
- Decreasing outdoor activity.
- Staying indoors as much as possible. HEPA filters have been effective in reducing particulates indoors during previous fires.
If symptoms associated with these pre-existing conditions do not respond to your usual recommended medications, see your health care provider immediately.
Immediate effects of short-term exposure to forest-fire smoke include sore eyes, tearing of eyes, cough and runny nose. Other symptoms often experienced from smoke exposure in combination with physical exhaustion, psychological stress, and poor nutrition include cold symptoms, persistent cough and sore throat.
Signs of high blood levels of carbon monoxide (CO) include headaches, dizziness, nausea and a decreased mental function.
Intermediate effects of exposure to forest-fire smoke (from days to weeks) include lung or airway congestion and persistent cough.
If you have asthma, emphysema or chronic bronchitis that does not respond well to your regular medications, smoke exposure in combination with physical exhaustion, psychological stress, and poor nutrition can lead to acute bronchitis.
If you are located in an area where you can smell smoke, or you experience symptoms of cough, eye, nose mouth or throat irritation, move indoors and stay there with the windows closed as long as it is safe to do so.
If you continue to smell smoke and experience these symptoms when indoors, then consider evacuating to another location away from the fire and smoke.