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Smoke likely to persist through the weekend

High smoke levels are expected to persist through the weekend, keeping air quality in or near the unhealthful zone where it’s lingered since late Thursday, according to a press release issued Friday by Jackson County Public Health officials.

Staying indoors is the best defense from exposure. When outdoors, avoid areas of smoke concentration and limit strenuous activity if possible. To monitor hourly reports of air quality in this area, visit oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map.

While the air quality is in the “unhealthy” range, it is recommended people limit outdoor exposure. “Everyone may begin to experience health effects,” according to the Air Quality Index (AQI) scale. “Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.

Wearing a face mask when outside can help lessen inhalation of smoke. Masks should be labeled a “particulate respirator” and have the word “NIOSH” and either “N95 or “N100” printed on it, according to the release.

Here’s where to find masks, air filters and air purifiers in Ashland:

The Ashland Police Department is giving away one free mask per household member while supplies last;

ACE Hardware has masks, air filters and air purifiers in stock; and

Bi-Mart also has masks, air filters and air purifiers.

The poorer the air quality, the more particulate matter is in the air. Inhalation of these particles is hazardous to everyone, but particularly young children, elderly citizens, and those with respiratory problems or compromised immune systems. The mask helps to filter most of the matter (if using the above-mentioned type of mask that is fitted correctly) from entering the lungs. In extreme smoke conditions, the particulate matter can even enter the bloodstream, wreaking havoc on the body.

After getting the mask, the next step is to ensure a proper fit. Position the mask low on the nose and fit it snugly to the face. It is impossible to properly fit a mask with facial hair, the document reads. Place the straps around the back of the head. One should be higher up on the head and the other should be lower, so that the mask stays secure on the face. Gently press down around the edge of the mask, starting from the top of the nose and working downward. This will ensure a proper fit to the face.

Check to see that the mask is fitted correctly by exhaling sharply. If air leaks around the nose or any other area, the mask is not fitted correctly and will not filter the air. For an instructional video and more information about smoke and protection against wildfire smoke, visit www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=17502.

These specific types of masks do not come in children’s sizes so it is important to keep children indoors and to limit their exposure as much as possible.

Bandanas and paper dust masks are ineffective and will only trap large particles.

Wearing a respirator may make breathing more difficult and can result in increased heart rates. Those with respiratory and heart diseases should consult with their doctor first. Even healthy adults may find they can only wear the mask for short periods of time, according to the document.

A mask with a one-way valve is slightly more comfortable because the condensation from the breath is mostly released through the valve. However, this is not a necessary feature to have.

It’s recommended to make certain that air filters are clean or brand new if possible. The air filters meant to filter allergens are the best to use during the smoke season. An air purifier for inside the home is another great way to decrease exposure.

Keep windows and doors shut. Keep pets indoors also.

For more information about smoke in Ashland and the surrounding area, visit bit.ly/2mtJp9s.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Furnished photoA still from an instructional video explaining how to properly fit the N-95 face mask.