When wildfires burn in your area, they produce smoke that may reach your community. Wildfire smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. This smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.
Who is at greatest risk from wildfire smoke?
People who have heart or lung diseases, like heart disease, chest pain, lung disease, or asthma, are at higher risk from wildfire smoke.
Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke. This may be due to their increased risk of heart and lung diseases.
Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke. Children’s airways are still developing and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Also, children often spend more time outdoors engaged in activity and play.
Reduce smoke exposure indoors
Stay inside with the doors and windows closed. Whether you have a central air conditioning system or a room unit, use high efciency flters to capture fne particles from smoke. Ask an air conditioning professional what type of high efciency flter your air conditioner can accept.
Seek shelter elsewhere if you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed.
Do not add to indoor air pollution. Do not burn candles or use gas, propane, wood- burning stoves, freplaces, or aerosol sprays. Do not fry or broil meat, smoke tobacco products, or vacuum. All of these can increase air pollution indoors.
Use a portable air cleaner to reduce indoor air pollution. Make sure it is sized for the room and that it does not make ozone, which is a harmful air pollutant. Portable air cleaners can be used along with efcient central air systems with efcient flters to maximize the reduction of indoor particles.
Create a “clean room” in your home. Choose a room with no freplace and as few windows and doors as possible, such as a bedroom. Use a portable air cleaner in the room.
Have a supply of N95 respirators and learn how to use them. They are sold at many home improvement stores and online.
Long-term smoke events usually have periods when the air is better. When air quality improves, even temporarily, air out your home to reduce indoor air pollution.
Reduce smoke exposure outdoors
Take it easier during smoky times to •reduce how much smoke you inhale. If it looks or smells smoky outside, avoid strenuous activities such as mowing the lawn or going for a run.
Know your air quality. Smoke levels can change a lot during the day, so wait until •air quality is better before you are active outdoors. Check your state or local air quality agency’s website or airnow.gov for air quality forecasts and current air quality conditions. On AirNow, you can also sign up to get email notifications, download an air quality app, or check current free conditions. In addition, some communities have visual range programs where you can assess smoke conditions by how far you can see.
Have enough food and medication on hand to last several days so you don’t have to go out for supplies. If you must go out, avoid the smokiest times of day.
Reduce smoke in your vehicle by closing the windows and vents and running the air conditioner in recirculate mode. Slow down when you drive in smoky conditions.
Do not rely on dust masks or bandanas for protection from smoke. If you must be out in smoky conditions, an N95 respirator can protect you, if it fts snugly to your face and is worn properly.
Have a plan to evacuate. Know how you will get alerts and health warnings, including air quality reports and public service announcements (PSAs). Public advisories can provide important information such as changing smoke conditions and evacuation notices. Know your evacuation routes, organize your important items ahead of time, and know where to go in case you have to evacuate.
Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
For information on wildfires in California, visit: