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GRH advises health precautions for wildfire smoke

Hospital news | Friday, September 8, 2017

Contact: Mardi Ford

LA GRANDE – Grande Ronde Hospital (GRH) is advising our community to take precautions and choose wisely when it comes to prolonged exposure to the wildfire smoke that lingers in the region. People with heart or lung disease or respiratory illnesses such as asthma should follow their health care provider’s advice about prevention and treatment of symptoms.

Currently our Walk-In Clinic is experiencing a significant increase in smoke-related issues. Over the last three days alone, clinic staff report that about 20% of patients seeking care are citing cold-like symptoms including shortness of breath, asthma, plus more that could readily be interpreted as smoke related.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is warning not to rely on dust masks for protection:

“Paper "comfort" or "dust" masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. There are also specially designed air filters worn on the face called respirators. These must be fitted, tested and properly worn to protect against wildfire smoke. People who do not properly wear their respirator may gain a false sense of security. If you choose to wear a respirator, select an “N95” respirator, and make sure you find someone who has been trained to help you select the right size, test the seal and teach you how to use it. It may offer some protection if used correctly.For more information about effective masks, see the Respirator Fact Sheet at CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.”

We ask that you be proactive about your health. Take proper precautions, be informed about the impact wildfire smoke may have on your health, and monitor Air Quality Index (AQI) readings.

Today, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued an Air Quality Alert that is expected to remain in effect through Monday at 10 AM:

“A Smoke Air Quality Alert has been issued. Wildfires burning in the region combined with forecasted conditions will cause air quality to reach unhealthy levels.”

The Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) recent AQI advisory statements and fact sheets should be taken seriously. Please monitor the local data which as of Friday was reporting communities in the local region in the red to purple ranges of Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy. Please review this AQI Basics chart included.

We will update our GRH Facebook page with any new information and public health releases should we receive them, so please follow us on Facebook if you do not already do so.

Below are links to the information at the OHA and DEQ sites referenced above: