Canadian wildfire smoke causing unhealthy air for Naperville area
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Smoke spreading from the wildfires in Canada is having an impact in the U.S., particularly for the greater Chicago area, including Naperville.

The website provides data on air quality and is showing the local area as having an air quality measurement of 184, which is in the unhealthy range.  For comparison, a healthy level would be any air quality rated 100 or below.

Local at-risk populations experiencing worsening symptoms

Dr. Phillip Cozzi, Specialist in Pulmonary Disease with Edward-Elmhurst Medical Group, says he has experienced the impact of the wildfires first-hand this summer.

“The air quality is really poor and unhealthy at this time.  Patients are coming in with increased symptoms [such as] shortness of breath,” said Cozzi.  “It’s really the at-risk population coming in that’s most at risk.”

Impact of wildfire smoke

The Center for Disease Control says wildfire smoke is a “mix of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation, building materials, and other materials” and can make even healthy people sick.  Such smoke can immediately impact one’s health, including causing the following symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing normally
  • Stinging eyes
  • A scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Irritated sinuses
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • An asthma attack
  • Tiredness
  • Fast heartbeat

Recommendations during poor air quality days

AirNow provides several recommended actions to take as a precaution including:

  • Waiting until air quality improves before doing major physical activities outside
  • Choosing less strenuous activities (walk instead of run, for example)
  • Shorten the amount of time doing those activities

The site says these are particularly important for those at higher risk, such as people with heart or lung disease, children and teens, and older adults.  If you fall into one of these categories, they suggest if possible, rescheduling outside activities or moving them indoors, otherwise limit time outside as much as possible.

Dr. Cozzi adds that checking this site before you plan your day is another precaution you can take.  “It gives a very clear map of the air quality index and may be useful for people to know,” he said.

What is AirNow?

AirNow is a website that reports data based on the official Air Quality Index (AQI), a color-coded system that communicates whether the air is healthy or unhealthy in any given area in the United States.  The data is gathered from other monitoring agencies, including:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Park Service
  • NASA
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • Additional regional, state and local agencies

Photo courtesy: AirNow

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