Elk Fire Complex

ASHLEY SMITH • TIMES-NEWS David Hartman, left, and Scott Calderwood, both with the Pagosa Fire Protection District in Color., mop up part of the 111,000 acre Elk Fire Complex near Pine, Idaho on Wednesday, August, 14, 2013.

ASHLEY SMITH • TIMES-NEWS

KETCHUM • Air quality in some areas of central Idaho now has reached an “unhealthy” or “unhealthy for sensitive groups” designation.

People should limit outdoor activities, advised the state Division of Public Health.

The Department of Environmental Quality is forecasting unhealthy air quality for areas of Boise, Elmore, Blaine, Camas and Custer counties.

Because of wildfire activity and weather patterns, air quality is not expected to significantly improve this week.

To reduce exposure to smoke, public health officials say:

• Everyone should avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors when the air quality index reaches unhealthy levels.

• Older adults, small children and those with respiratory conditions or heart disease may be more sensitive to poor air quality and should stay indoors and avoid heavy work when air quality reaches unhealthy levels.

• Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps dilute phlegm in the respiratory tract, making it easier to cough out particles created by smoke. Plan to cough; it is nature’s way of clearing your lungs. Avoid caffeine, sugary drinks and alcohol because they have a dehydrating effect.

• Stay cool if the weather is warm. Run air conditioner to recirculate air. Turn the fan blower on manually so it continuously filters the air in your home.

• For homes without central cooling, use portable air purifiers to remove particles. Air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are best. Visit areas in your community that have air conditioning, such as a library.

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• If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses in a smoky environment.

Not all areas of the state have air quality monitors, so people are encouraged to be cautious if visibility is affected because of smoke and particulates from wildfires.

Your eyes are your best tools to determine if it’s safe to be outside.

If visibility is reduced to less than 8 miles, sensitive groups should limit activity. If visibility is reduced to less than 3 miles, air quality is considered unhealthy for everyone.

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