Skip Navigation
Select Language

Breathe Easy: Protecting Your Health During Air Quality Alerts

June 28, 2023
Breathe Easy: Protecting Your Health During Air Quality Alerts

Summer is when we can enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on lazy, hazy days. But what happens when the air gets a little too hazy? You may have recently noticed less visibility in the air, along with warnings about air quality issues from local meteorologists and on your weather app.


What causes air quality issues? Common sources of air quality problems are pollution, including, as we’ve seen more recently, smoke from wildfires, such as in Canada or the western United States. Breathing in this type of air is dangerous, as it can contain harmful substances that can negatively affect our bodies. People at the greatest risk for health problems during this time are older adults, pregnant persons, infants and children, and individuals with lung or heart issues.


When there are problems with the air quality in your area, you may notice yourself coughing more, having trouble breathing or having a scratchy throat. Your eyes might sting or water due to the smoke in the air. Experiencing these physical symptoms due to poor air quality raises an important question: How can you stay informed and monitor the air quality in your area? There are many resources you can use to check the local air quality, including visiting You can also sign up for air quality alerts from the Wisconsin DNR.


If an air quality alert is issued for your location, there are steps you can take to keep yourself healthy and safe. Avoid going outdoors, especially at peak negative air quality levels. Make sure all the windows and doors are closed. Have an air purifier running in your home to filter out the harmful substances in the air. Avoid exercising outdoors, as breathing in smoky air during physical activity can put additional strain on your body.


But what can you do to protect yourself if you need to be outside, such as for work or running necessary errands? You can wear a KN95 or N95 mask to protect against breathing harmful particles in the air. If you are driving, ensure your climate settings are on recirculating air, not the fresh air setting, as this will prevent more problematic air from being pulled into your vehicle.


We can’t stop the Canadian wildfires, but we can improve air quality by:

    • Drive less by biking or walking, avoid vehicle idling, and carpool whenever possible
    • Plant more greenery like trees and bushes
    • Use less energy by adjusting thermostat settings, decreasing screen time, and unplugging devices and appliances that aren’t being used
    • Improve the energy efficiency of your home with things like LED light bulbs and good weatherization
    • Explore ways to electrify your home and home appliances like lawnmowers, hot water heaters and furnaces
    • Consider improving indoor air quality by swapping out gas stoves for electric or induction stoves, using cooking vents, regularly replacing HVAC filters and using other indoor purifiers


While we may not have control over the air quality in our area, prioritizing our health and taking proactive measures during periods of poor air quality is essential. By staying informed about air quality updates and following guidelines, we can make informed decisions and minimize our exposure to harmful substances in the air.