If you’ve been outside over the past few days, you have no doubt noticed the smoke in the air. You may also have wondered how safe it is to be breathing in this smoke. As of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, November 15, the Air Quality Index in Charleston is 167 or “Unhealthy” according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Dr. Lynn Schnapp, a specialist in Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at MUSC Health, offered these insights into our air quality and how to handle the current poor conditions.

“When the air is unhealthy, in general, the recommendation is you don’t want to be outside, even if you don’t have underlying lung or cardiovascular complications. You want to minimize your outdoor exposure and your exertion during outdoor activities.”

When the air quality is poor, there is cause for concern and people should take steps to minimize exposure. To parents of children who normally play outside, Dr. Schnapp says, “Kids should not be outside playing for prolonged periods of time. Recess should be inside. I’d say consider recess indoor activities.”

Air quality conditions are particularly concerning for those with lung disease or people with asthma. Irritants in the air can exacerbate problems they may already experience.

In general, today is not the day for prolonged outdoor exposure. You should be minimizing activities such as exercise outdoors or indoors. "And," Dr. Schnapp adds, “I don’t recommend that people go out with filter masks at this point, but the main strategy is to minimize exposure.  And, do not freak out if you need to cross the street.”