You may find it harder to breathe during the night and early morning when air quality is the worst across Southcentral. As wildfires continue to burn across the state amidst the driest summer on record, air quality continues to fluctuate from moderate to hazardous.

It's a growing health problem for the hundreds of thousands of Alaskans who live in Southcentral, as hazardous air quality can quickly lead to a number of symptoms including respiratory illness. Even those who are healthy can experience health impacts from polluted air, which is why it's extremely important to take the necessary steps as you head outside. 

 

Many are finding it hard to get outside and enjoy the sunny and cooler weather, as smoke continues to filter into the region and settle. The coughing, sneezing and wheezing is even worse as you start your day, due in large part to how our atmosphere operates.

During the night, cold air settles closer to the ground due to the lack of heating from the sun. This stagnant air is a breeding ground for pollutants to accumulate, which is why we typically see more pollution at night and during the early morning hours.

Additionally, exhaust from cars, construction work and buildings that let off pollutants add to the growing air quality concerns.

The case is opposite during the day, thanks to the sun. As the sun rises and heats up the atmosphere due to convection, we see that air expands. As the air expands, it slowly rises and takes away the polluted air and improves the air quality. It's also another reason why visibility is greatly improved as the day progresses. 

Not only is it hard to breathe when air quality is in dangerous territory, but many Alaskans may find it hard to sleep. A study by the American Thoracic Society published earlier this year looked at the effects of how air pollution could be causing some people to lose sleep.

In the study, researchers found a link between obstructive sleep apnea and increases in two of the most common air pollutants. The lead author of the study Dr. Martha E. Billings said, "It seemed likely that air pollution was detrimental to sleep, given that air pollution causes upper airway irritation, swelling and congestion, and may also affect the parts of the brain and central nervous system that control breathing patterns and sleep." 

With sleep being a big factor of your health, it's important to make the right decisions when it comes to safety and health concerns from smoke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states how important it is to be ready to protect yourself from smoke and ash during a wildfire.

No matter how healthy a person is, wildfire smoke can make anyone sick. This is because the smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees, plants, buildings and other materials.

According to the CDC website, here is a list of ways you can reduce your exposure to smoke:

•     Keep smoke outside by choosing a room to close off from outside air.

•     Set up a portable air cleaner or a filter.

•     Reduce your smoke exposure by wearing a respirator or face mask.

•     Keep track of current wildfires and check air quality before heading outside.

•     Pay attention to any healthy symptoms.

•     Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution

•     Evacuate from the path of wildfires when notified.

While air quality continues to be a concern across Southcentral, the weather pattern favors considerable improvement in the coming days. While this may be the case, it's still important to remember that as long as wildfires continue to burn across the state, air quality will continue to fluctuate. 

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