Dry conditions in Tennessee have increased the number of wildfires we are seeing in our community and surrounding areas. The smoke from these fires can reduce air quality in our area and may affect your health.  There are actions you can take to avoid or reduce these potential health effects.

How smoke affects you depends on your age, existing medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, and the length of time you are exposed to the smoke.  Signs of smoke irritation include itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose, coughing, and wheezing. Healthy adults who have a short exposure to smoke usually find that these symptoms clear up once they are away from the smoke.

Protect Your Health

  • Avoid physical activity outdoors (exercise causes more fine particles to be breathed deeper into the lungs). People with pre-existing lung or heart conditions in particular should rest as much as possible and keep away from the smoke.
  • People with asthma should follow their personal asthma plan and consult a physician if symptoms worsen.
  • When smoke is in the air, but a fire is not directly threatening you, stay indoors and close all windows and doors.
  • If you operate an air conditioner during smoky conditions, switch it to recycle to reduce smoke coming inside your home.
  • If there is a break in smoky conditions, take the opportunity to air out your home to improve indoor air quality.
  • When indoors, minimize other sources of air pollution such as cigarette smoke, burning candles, using unfluted gas appliances or woodstoves, and stirring up fine dust from sweeping or vacuuming.
  • Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper dust masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
  • Evacuate from the path of wildfires. Listen to the news to learn about current evacuation orders. Follow the instructions of local officials about when and where to evacuate. Take only essential items with you. Follow designated evacuation routes, others may be blocked, and expect heavy traffic.
  • During extended, very smoky conditions, people who are sensitive to smoke should consider temporarily staying with a friend or relative living outside the smoke-affected area. Outdoor sporting events may also be postponed by event organizers.

If you experience symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure, seek medical advice or contact Student Health Services at 423-425-2266.

For more information about current conditions in our area see https://www.airnow.gov. Find out more about protecting yourself from wildfire smoke here: www.cdc.gov/features/wildfires.


Media Relations Contacts: Email Chuck Cantrell or call (423) 425-4363.
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