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Protecting Yourself From Wildfire Smoke

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.
  • 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.
Take steps to decrease your risk from wildfire smoke.

Check local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke.

  • Stop or limit outdoor activities as much as possible to reduce exposure to unhealthy air.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter in a designated evacuation center or away from the affected wildfire areas.
  • If you don't have air conditioning and it's too hot to stay inside, try to seek shelter somewhere with air conditioning and remember to wear a mask and stay six feet apart.
  • Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
  • Follow the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Consider evacuating if you are having trouble breathing. Call your doctor for advice if your symptoms worsen.
  • 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. We also recommend that you check with your doctor before using a particulate respirator. Those include masks labeled NIOSH-approved, marked N95 or N100 or P100. The best option for finding clean air is in buildings with sealed windows and HVAC systems.

(Sources: Centers for Disease Control and John Muir Health)