How to Avoid Exposure to Wildfire Smoke
Wildfire Preparation Day was on May 4. Even if you missed this unofficial start to fire season, it’s not too late to consider how you should protect yourself from poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke. After all, fires can rage across the country all summer long, producing smoke that causes burning eyes, sinus irritation and difficulty breathing. The most susceptible people include older adults, children, and individuals with heart or lung disease.
Remain alert for wildfire warnings, and then follow these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid exposure to wildfire smoke.
Check air quality reports
Even if you live many miles from a blazing wildfire, you may still be at risk for unhealthy smoke inhalation. Smoke particles travel great distances on the wind and pollute the air wherever they go.
You can find real-time air quality reports across the country on AirNow.gov. Reliable health warnings about smoke are also available on the news and in newspapers. You can follow your community leaders on social media to hear about updates there as well.
Keep windows closed
If you learn that your area currently has unhealthy air quality, remain inside, close all windows and doors, and turn the air conditioner on. This ensures you stay comfortable while protecting yourself from wildfire smoke. If you don’t have AC, and it’s too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter outside the affected area or in a designated evacuation center.
Avoid activities that create indoor air pollution
While you’re hunkering down inside, do everything you can to keep the indoor air as clean as possible. For example, don’t burn candles, operate the fireplace, cook on a gas-burning stove, use a vacuum cleaner or smoke cigarettes until it’s safe to open the windows again.
Follow your doctor’s advice
If you have asthma, allergies, lung disease or another respiratory problem, speak to a healthcare provider about any extra steps you should take to manage your condition. Call your doctor for advice if your symptoms worsen during wildfire season. You may be instructed to evacuate until the air quality improves.
Don’t rely on dust masks
A basic dust mask is designed to protect your lungs from sawdust and other large particles. Wearing one doesn’t prevent you from breathing in microscopic smoke particles. For this, you need a tightly fitting N95 or P100 respirator.
Evacuate if necessary
Listen to your National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or tune into news reports to remain informed of evacuation orders. If local officials instruct you to evacuate, do so as soon as possible. Only take the essentials from your 72-hour kit to ensure a speedy exit.