Health Department Issues Air Quality Advisory

Published on March 19, 2024

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) issued a health advisory on March 13 because of smoke from burning north of Nebraska City.  Smoke may reach levels that are unhealthy for children, older adults and those with asthma, lung disease, and other respiratory or heart conditions. 

“Prescribed burning near Nebraska City combined with easterly winds may result in brief periods of smoke levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups, but that smoke is likely to move out of the area as a storm front moves in later today and this evening,” said Gary Bergstrom, Air Quality Program Supervisor with LLCHD. 

Breathing smoke can cause asthma attacks, worsen chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and cause chest pain in some people with heart disease, Bergstrom said.

When the Air Quality Index (AQI) is in the orange category, that means the air quality is unhealthy for individuals with higher sensitivity to air pollution. People at risk should reduce strenuous physical activity when outdoors, take plenty of breaks and watch for symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or chest pain. Those who experience these symptoms should contact a medical care provider. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and have quick relief medicine readily available. 

When the AQI is in the red category or worse, the air quality is unhealthy for everyone, and all residents should follow the guidance provided above.

Those at risk can further protect their health when air quality is poor by staying indoors, keeping windows and doors closed, using a HEPA filter, and using the “re-circulate” setting when using a vehicle’s heater or air conditioner. 

Smoke levels may fluctuate due to wind and weather conditions and varying smoke production by the fires.  Residents are encouraged to visit the EPA’s Fire and Smoke Map ( for information on current air quality conditions.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also provides the AirNow and SmokeSense smart phone applications to help people stay informed of the AQI in their area.  These tools also provide guidance on what precautions people should take when heading outdoors.

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