NTM Northwest Support

A Pacific Northwest support group for sufferers of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial (NTM) Infections and Bronchiectasis

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#1 2018-09-02 08:25:36

Support Group Chair
From: Bellingham
Registered: 2016-05-30
Posts: 150

Living with BAD AIR in general, wildland fire smoke in particular

During fire season monitor air quality regularly:  AirNow.gov (pop in your state)  and  AQICN.org/here/ (pop in your city and state) and state fire maps.  One fire map for WA is https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/ (these sites often change...just google)   Air truly is global.  We are currently experiencing smoke from California, two weeks ago from Russia, last summer from Canada.  During July, August, early September I always check air quality before going out for my daily walk...less it's raining!

Air quality sites rely on feedback from machines, subject to malfunction so if something looks odd, cross check with other sites.  Several cities in Oregon read 500 (absolute worst rating) for ozone level for over a month.  Seriously I think they got stuck during the July heat spell.  Also, many stations on the AQICN.org site don't record all categories of pollution so you should look (at least initially until you are familiar with monitors in your locale) not just at a monitors' overall rating but the total report. The most important pollutant for us would be PM2.5, fine particles. Be sure the reading is recent and not several days old.

Limit outdoor activity if the air is bad.  Bad is relative to your health and risk comfort level...my bronchiectasis is mild to moderate but growing and I have an asthmatic component to my illness.  So if it's green I GO, if yellow I might pop out if I really need to go somewhere but I wear my mask, if orange or worse I STAY INSIDE. Do what makes sense for you.  Keep all windows shut. Some smoke will always seep in, but minimize it.

If you have AC in your house close it's fresh air intake when smoky, re-circulating house air instead of pulling in the bad.

If you don't have a central HVAC, purchase a high-efficiency HEPA filter fan/purifier suitable for your home. Check to be sure it does not produce ozone which is a lung irritant. Designate at least one room in your home to be a “clean room.” Ideally, this room should have as few windows or doors as possible to let smoke in. Use an indoor air filter/purifier to make the room even cleaner. Check the coverage of the air purifier.  A unit designed to clean 200 ft square won't be able to keep up with a 10 x 20 ft room if it opens onto the kitchen, hallways or upstairs as well...

I have one Winix in my bedroom, door shut.  Also have one in my living room which opens onto the kitchen and hall.  I am currently researching for a larger unit to buy before the 2019 fire season because even with all the hall doors shut I think it is too large a space. My air purifiers are in place year round even though we have great air in Bellingham except during fire season because of indoor air pollution.  I have a gas stove top which produces a lot of indoor air pollution. I take my more mobile tower unit down to Palm Springs when I go...lots of dust in the air which finds its way in.

Costco currently (in 2018) stocks a Winix C535 that is only $139. and will clean a 360 sq ft room BUT do not run the Plasmawave feature (has it's own 'on' button which also lights up the words Plasmawave in blue) This creates positive and negative ions, which in theory capture pollutants but this may be bad for folks like us with wonky lungs.

Whatever unit you choose...be sure and maintain it properly. Mark your calendar to inspect filters. They will not work if clogged.

?When going through smoky areas or anytime you are in heavy traffic put your car's vent on "re-circulate". On many cars this is a button with a picture of a whole car and an arrow flowing within it. On this setting you are not constantly bringing in bad air or nasty exhaust.  You can still have the car's AC on.

Carry N95 or N99 masks in your car.  Anytime I drive over to Spokane during the summer I seem to hit a stretch of bad smoke on 1-90. Pop that mask on!! I use 3M 8511 (most comfy, my go-to mask for household chores like dusting, vacuuming, potting plants) and 3M 9211+ (flat and easy to stash in glove box or suitcase) Because I have reactive lungs I open the plastic sleeve and let them air a bit.  They have a little foam thing around the nose with just a bit of odor. Then put them back in plastic sleeve to protect them. Fuss pot, that's me. Available on Amazon or often cheaper at your local hardware stores, usually in a box of ten. They are disposable but you can use one for quite a while. I am going to try a N99 mask despite having heard they don't seal as well and are harder to breathe while wearing.

If I remember I also take my personal "Wynd" air purifier to use during smoky stretches. I have a cigarette lighter adapter to charge on the move so it's great when you are barrelling along I-90 and run into smoke trapped by the Cascades.  If I have room in the car I'll take my tower style air purifier that's not too cumbersome to drag around.  Helps a lot with hotel room odors..

Make a plan with your doc now about how best to handle smoke season.  Don't wait until you have gotten sick. Because of my bronchiectasis and slight asthma my doctor suggested I start an inhaled corticosteroid to get inflammation under control, a week before I go over to Spokane. The air is very unpredictable there into early fall. My daughter is having an outdoor wedding this September.  The meds take a week to really kick in so she wants me ready if the air goes bad. Do what makes sense for your lungs.  My doc had so many patients really struggling last summer after getting caught in the smoke...this year she is being more proactive.
I'm a bit obsessed with controlling the air around me, but that's partly because I have bronchiectasis and very reactive lungs.  JUST DO THE THINGS THAT MAKE SENSE FOR YOUR LIFE AND YOUR LUNGS.


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