Lincoln, NE (March 15, 2022) With spring burning season underway, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today encouraged residents to monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) to determine if levels of smoke in the air are unhealthy. Over the next six to eight weeks, smoke from controlled burning across the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma may cause elevated levels of smoke in Lincoln and Lancaster County. Widespread drought conditions throughout the central and western U.S. have also increased the risk of wildfires.
Smoke from controlled burning and wildfires can cause health issues, especially for children, older adults and those with asthma, lung disease, other respiratory conditions, or heart disease. Those at risk are encouraged to check the AQI before doing any strenuous activities outdoors, take plenty of breaks and watch for symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or chest pain.
The LLCHD monitors air quality 24 hours a day, and the Air Quality Index (AQI) at airnow.gov is updated hourly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also provides the AirNow and SmokeSense smart phone applications to help people stay informed of the AQI in their area.
The air quality levels are color-coded on the AQI chart as follows:
When air quality is unhealthy, those at risk can further protect their health by staying indoors, keeping windows and doors closed, using a HEPA filter, and using the recirculate setting when using a vehicle air conditioner. Those who experience difficulty breathing, coughing, unusual fatigue, heart palpitations, tightness in the chest, or angina should contact a medical care provider.