Smoke and Your Health 
(Información en Español)
Washington State Department of Health 
Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause health problems. Some symptoms include:
  • burning eyes
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • worsening of heart and lung conditions
The possibility for high levels of smoke to worsen symptoms or trigger health effects for the people with heart disease or lung disease is especially a concern because this can be life-threatening. Sensitive groups include:
  • people with heart and lung disease
  • people with respiratory infections
  • people with diabetes
  • infants and children
  • pregnant women
  • people over 65
How to protect you and your family's health from outdoor smoke.
How can I tell if smoke is affecting the air quality in my community.
Recommendations on the use of face masks during a wildfire event.
Recommendations for recess, P.E., and athletic events and practices at schools during smoky conditions.

Recommendations for schools and buildings with mechanical ventilation.
Mobile Phone Apps
  • EPA's "Smoke Sense" Get current and location-specific information about smoke, learn about health impacts, and participate in a citizen science project.
  • EPA's AirNow" Get current and location-specific information about air pollution (PM2.5 and ozone). 
Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units
US Environmental Protection Agency
US Centers for Disease Control


  1. If you are a relatively healthy person, is there any long term effects of breathing all this smoke for these extended periods. thank you

  2. Matt Kadlec - WA EcologyAugust 15, 2018 at 11:36 AM

    Respiratory symptoms and illness events among people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are commonly associated with wildland fire smoke. A few studies have also found associations with cardiovascular health impacts. Wildfire smoke also affects otherwise healthy people, especially very young and old people. For example, smoke alters immunity, predisposing children to acute lower respiratory tract infections. Smoke probably causes lung inflammation in everyone regardless of their age and health status. There’s not much research on long-term effects of wildfire smoke, but repeated smoke exposures in firefighters can cause chronic lung and systemic inflammation, which may contribute to development of respiratory diseases.

  3. This will also affect those of us with prosthetic eyes. I am having a horrible time with dry, burning eyes from the smoke and even though I use my silicone lubricant, along with the lubricating eye drops for my prosthetic eye many times during the day, between heavy goop being created, the smoke, warm to hot air, as well as air conditioning, it is taking a toll on me. It now stings to use the lubricating eye drops, that is how bad it has gotten.

  4. Can the excessive smoke cause migraines?

    1. Yes, wildfire smoke can trigger migraines or general headaches. Migraines may be accompanied by additional symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, or seeing spots. Do what you can to reduce your exposure by getting indoors and keeping your indoor air clean with closed windows and an air cleaner with a HEPA filter. At the same time, pay attention to the heat: use an air conditioner and stay hydrated. If that’s not possible, go somewhere else with clean, cool air. Resting with an ice pack on your head may help. Consult with your medical provider if symptoms persist.

  5. We have a couple of very active indoor/outdoor cats. They all prefer going outside to using a clean litter box unless it is pouring-wind-and-rain or freezing weather. Trying to keep them inside makes them more prone to escaping outside for longer periods of time. Are we right in assuming this weather is worse for our smaller family members, despite their displeasure?

    1. Please see this resource: In general you should try to pick times when there is intermittent clearing to let them out. Pets with pre-existing health conditions or elderly pets are especially susceptible to bar air quality. Whatever you can do to limit the total amount of time they spend outdoors will help.

  6. Is strenuous activity in a gym, such as running on a treadmill, OK while the PM 2.5 level outside is unhealthy? My guess would be no, because HVAC systems don't usually include HEPA filtration. What about exercising in my home with my HEPA air purifier running?

    1. When the air quality gets “very unhealthy” or “hazardous”, we recommend that you avoid strenuous activity indoors and outdoors. This is because even with windows closed and use of an air cleaner with a HEPA filter, we know that buildings leak and smoke gets in. Properly used HEPA filters typically reduce the amount of smoke indoors only by half relative to outside air. Without measuring, we can’t know how leaky to smoke your house or gym are, but when making this decision, you should consider that all buildings are permeable to smoke and that HEPAs can only remove some of it.

    2. Thank you for the answer! I am concerned by the sentence about HEPA filters typically reducing indoor smoke by only half. What type of filter was used in that test?
      My IQAir air purifier claims to remove 99.5% of all particles down to 0.003 microns. Can both statements be true? Is it that my purifier is better than "typical"? Or that the purifier only gets to about half the air in the room? Or that it can't keep up with the smoke leaking into the room?

  7. See today's post about HEPA air purifiers, also termed air cleaners. You can also check for portable air cleaners certified by the California Air Resource Board here:


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