Thursday, June 13

Floridians encouraged to stay indoors as Canadian wildfire smoke creates haze

If you noticed cloudy skies tuesday, it’s not fog or smog that settled throughout Florida.

It’s smoke drifting down from about 300 wildfires burning in Canada, and the smoke isn’t just clouding the skies. It could cloud your lungs, too, making it harder to breathe.

Parts of Palm Beach County to the Treasure Coast saw air quality levels in the 160s.

In Vero Beach, WPTV’s Kate Hussey saw that level reach 165, and Dr. Stephen Milan, a pulmonologist with Delray and West Boca Medical Centers, said anything over 150 is considered unhealthy, even to strong, healthy adults.

“It’s 160 where I’m at in Delray, and for the average person, without any respiratory disease, without any cardiovascular disease, maybe spend a little time indoors today,” said Milan.

Milan also said if you have to spend time outdoors, limit yourself to non-strenuous activities (i.e. save that tough run for another day).

For people with asthma, pupulmonary or cardiovascular disease, he said it’s even more important to limit outdoor time as much as possible.

“We also strongly recommend, ‘hey, pay attention to your symptoms’ to our asthmatics out there,” Milan said. “There is an asthma action plan out there that your doc should have you on, make sure you’re tracking your symptoms and enact that action plan if we need to.”

Milan said excessive coughing and wheezing are some concern symptoms to keep an eye on, but said ultimately, those with conditions should know their bodies, and know when to call a doctor. He said it’s also a good idea to keep infants under 2 months inside.

“If you’re coughing more, if youre wheezing, these are triggers, these are red flags,” Milan said.

Several beachgoers in Vero Beach watched the haze in awe.

“Is this fog? Is this smog? Like what is going on?” asked Jessica Vaughn, visiting from Wisconsin. “It was so, like, glowy and bright! Are there zombies all over the place today? And like an idiot, I went for a run today,” she added jokingly.

Robert Dunkendorff was fishing, and said he could hardly see the horizon.

“Visibility is usually a lot clearer, man, a lot clearer,” Dunkendorff said. Its like a ghost ship on the horizon, its cool to think about.”

Kevin and Kathy Reed came to see the high tide, but instead found themselves in awe of this other weather phenomenon.

“Thought there would be some erosion but yeah, look at that, the haze!” Kevin Reed said. “Walked out this morning, distinctively off in the distance you can tell somethings up.”

Milan recommended if you do go outside, check the air quality first. You can go to Airnow.gov or download the Environmental Protection Agency’s “AirNow” app.

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