Smoke from Canadian wildfires has drifted down to blanket parts of north and central Florida with hazy skies, according to the National Weather Service in Melbourne.
The end result are hazy skies and decreased air quality across the state, with some areas affected more than others. Hazy conditions were expected Tuesday along the Panhandle and portions of the peninsula as smoke moves south, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Here's what you need to know to track the smoke and air quality dangers in your area.
Are you seeing a haze in the sky? Canadian wildfire smoke sweeping across Florida
See the latest smoke conditions in Florida
Is haze from wildfires dangerous?
Inhaling smoke can be dangerous because it contains a mixture of hazardous gases and solid particles smaller than a human hair, called particulate matter (the EPA calls it PM2.5) which can easily enter your lungs and bloodstream and cause damage to other organs.
What is PM2.5 pollution?
PM stands for particulate matter, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air, according to the EPA. It's also called particle pollution. Particle pollution is ranked as:
PM10: Inhalable particles with diameters generally 10 micrometers and smaller
PM2.5: Fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller. That's 30x smaller than the diameter of the average human hair.
The microscopic solids and droplets can get into the lungs and possibly the bloodstream.
How can I tell if smoke or poor air quality is affecting me?
Even healthy people may experience irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath, according to AirNow. The symptoms should fade once you remove yourself from the area or the air quality improves.
People with lung diseases, including asthma and COPD: You may not be able to breathe as deeply or as strongly as usual and may experience chest discomfort, wheezing, shortness of breath, and unusual fatigue.
People with heart or vascular disease: Chest discomfort (uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back), discomfort in other areas of the upper body (pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach), shortness of breath, or other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness. Seek emergency medical treatment if you experience these symptoms. But particle exposure can cause serious problems, including worsening of your disease, in a short period of time, AirNow says. Do not assume you're safe just because you don't have symptoms.
How can I protect myself from bad air quality?
Here are some tips from AirNow.gov for people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and teens to avoid lung irritation and health complications due to increased air pollution:
Stay indoors in an area with filtered air. Avoid strenuous outdoor activities that make you breathe faster or more deeply. Consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them.
Protect the air in your home. Keep doors and windows shut and make sure your air conditioner has a good, fresh filter. If your air conditioner has a fresh air setting, make sure the fresh-air intake is closed.
Keep an eye on symptoms. Higher levels of smoke in some areas can make breathing more difficult. If you are experiencing symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.
Take precautions for kids. Extra precautions should be taken for children and teens, who are more susceptible to smoke. Their lungs are still developing, and they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) for their size than adults.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Hazy Florida: Track Canadian wildfire smoke on interactive map