Air quality alert: Who is at risk and what can you do?

We spoke with a local doctor about the potentially hazardous effects poor air quality could have on at risk groups
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 4:35 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2023 at 4:40 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - As millions of people are under air quality alerts due to smoke, we’re talking to an Upstate doctor about what it means for you.

Smoke from more than 400 fires burning in Canada has sent a shroud of hazardous haze over the country. Officials said nearly 10 million acres of land have burned in Canada, roughly half the size of South Carolina.

Dr. Emmanuel Sarmiento, who studies strategies to manage asthma and allergies, said the poor air quality is a health concern, particularly for sensitive groups or people who work outdoors.

The smoke can irritate the lining of your eyes and sometimes your nose. Sarmiento said it can mimic some allergy symptoms like itchy and red eyes.

Buildings in Jersey City, N.J. are partially obscured by smoke from Canadian wildfires as a...
Buildings in Jersey City, N.J. are partially obscured by smoke from Canadian wildfires as a ferry travels up the Hudson River, seen from the Manhattan borough of New York on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)(Patrick Sison | AP)

People who are elderly, have heart disease, severe asthma or COPD are at higher risk for lung inflammation due to the air right now.

What can you do to help if you’re at risk?

Dr. Sarmiento said you should close your windows and turn your air conditioner on continuous mode, rather than cycle. People with COPD, asthma or other respiratory diseases should continue to take their medicine, make sure they have a refill available if needed, and talk to their doctors.

If you just like spending time outdoors, Sarmiento said you should postpone it for now and continue to check the air quality index.

Air quality conditions are expected to begin improving in the next day or so. For the latest updates, get the free FOX Carolina First Alert Weather app.