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State health officials urge precautions as wildfires pose threat to those with respiratory conditions


For release: Immediate    June 19, 2012
Contact: Mark Van Sciver, 919-855-4840

RALEIGH – As a wildfire in the Croatan National Forest blankets much of eastern North Carolina with smoke, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services urges residents and visitors to take precautions to protect themselves from health risks associated with poor air quality. Smoky conditions can be especially dangerous for individuals with respiratory conditions like lung conditions or asthma and those with heart or lung disease such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma.

While the wildfires burn, anyone in the vicinity should take the following precautions:

  • Pay attention to local air quality reports: or the North Carolina Air Quality Forecast Center at
  • Check your local television and radio station for updates and alerts on air quality issues.
  • Avoid physical exertion and outdoor recreational or sporting events.
  • Avoid smoking tobacco products.
  • Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible.
  • Avoid cooking with gas, wood, or propane stoves.
  • Avoid vacuuming unless there is a HEPA filter vacuum or central vacuum system.
  • Avoid using air purifying ozone generators.

State public health officials also warn people not to rely on dust masks commonly found at hardware stores for protection. These masks don’t protect lungs from fine particles and gases found in smoke. Breathing through these masks may cause additional health problems in people with lung diseases such as asthma or emphysema, elderly people, heart disease.

Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in breathing normally.
  • Coughing with or without mucus.
  • Chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Anyone who is experiencing chest pain, chest tightness, and shortness of breath or severe fatigue should contact their doctor.

For more information on asthma and other respiratory conditions, as well as resources to help manage asthma, visit

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