November 23, 2016

Outdoor Plans for Thanksgiving? Keep the Air Quality In Mind with These Helpful Hints

Thanksgiving is upon us, and this family-focused holiday often inspires us to get outdoors. Whether keeping up the tradition of a backyard football game, taking your out-of-town guests for a hike in our area’s beautiful mountains, or just standing over the turkey fryer, the air quality could affect your health. With the ongoing forest fires in western North Carolina, it is vital to stay abreast of the air quality forecast and keep in mind how to approach outdoor activity.

Code Orange is unhealthy for small children, the elderly and people with heart and lung disease. Code Red is unhealthy for everyone, and Code Purple means outdoor activities should be cancelled.

shutterstock-fall-family-leavesThe Color Air Quality Forecast

The North Carolina Air Quality Forecast Center actively provides live updates to air quality in our region. The purpose of the scale, which ranges in severity from green to purple, is to provide recommendations for outdoor activities based on specific levels of health and sensitivities. Over the weekend, areas of western North Carolina are expected to range between the red, orange and yellow levels, depending on your area.  To determine the air quality level in your community, visit

A Few Tips When the Air Quality is Poor

  • Take your cues on activity levels based on air quality.
  • If you do have to go out, consider wearing an N-95 respirator when the air quality is poorer.
  • Consider running your HVAC system and limiting it to air circulating inside.
  • Inside your automobile, limit the air to recirculation.
  • Don’t take outdoor risks that may have adverse consequences.

Respiratory Distress in Children – What to Look For

Symptoms can be obvious or subtle. Look for persistent cough, wheeze and chest congestion. Additional signs of respiratory distress include:

  • Unable to complete a small sentence without catching their breath
  • Retractions
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Grunting
  • Nasal flaring

Parents should seek medical attention after any persistent respiratory symptom or any signs of respiratory distress, or poor response to asthma rescue therapy in those children with a history of asthma.

Individuals Suffering from Heart and Lung Conditions

As air quality levels shift, individuals who experience any heart and lung conditions are still considered sensitive and therefore at greater risk. It is recommended to continue reduced exposure to unhealthy air by limiting outdoor exposure and substituting a less intense outdoor activity – for example a walk instead of a jog.