Wildfire smoke can be unhealthy to breathe, especially for vulnerable people such as those with existing heart or lung disease, children, older adults, and pregnant women. Always pay attention to how the smoke is making you feel and check with your doctor right away for help managing symptoms or any specific concerns.
No Cost Ways to Lower Smoke Exposure
1. Know your air quality. Smoke levels can change a lot during the day so watch for periods of cleaner air to run errands, exercise, or do outdoor chores. Look for opportunities to open windows and doors to let cleaner air into your home if smoke clears.
· Go online to track fires and smoke here: https://fire.airnow.gov/
· Have a smartphone? Download the Smoke Sense App. https://www.epa.gov/air-research/smoke-sense-study-citizen-science-project-using-mobile-app
· Learn the colors of the AQI (air quality index) and what they mean for actions you can take to protect your health. See the AQI table below.
2. Stay inside with doors and windows closed when it’s smoky. Use towels to block air flow if smoke is coming in through gaps in window or door frames. But don’t overheat! Open doors and windows if you must to cool down. Watch for times when smoke may clear and open windows and doors to clear out smoke that has gotten inside.
3. Reduce indoor pollution you can control. Reduce or eliminate any type of smoking, no vacuuming, no candles, no incense, no aerosol sprays. Reduce or eliminate use of gas, propane, or woodburning stoves for heat. Do not fry or broil meat.
4. Take it easy. Smoky air is not good for vigorous activities. Put off chopping wood, mowing the lawn, or going for a run. Try to keep children and pets quiet too.
5. Set air to recirculate on your HVAC or window air conditioner if you have one.
6. Reduce smoke in your vehicle if you’re out in your car by closing the windows and vents and running the air conditioner on recirculate.
Low to Medium Cost Ways to Lower Smoke Exposure
1. Leave the smoky area for a few hours or a few days if you cannot keep the air in your home clean or cool. Check the AirNow forecast page for your area to see if there is somewhere you can go to get a break from the smoke. www.airnow.gov
2. Upgrade your HVAC filters. If you have an HVAC system, upgrade the filters to a “MERV 13” or higher and run the system on recirculate. Filters will need to be changed more often when it’s smoky. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions or an HVAC system specialist.
3. Buy a HEPA portable air cleaner. For about $100-$300 you can purchase a HEPA portable air cleaner and use it to clean the air in a room in your home (often a bedroom). See more information here including some recommendations on specific cleaners to buy: https://www.montanawildfiresmoke.org/hepa-filters.html
4. Build a simple box fan filter. For about $40-$50 you can build an air filter by attaching a 20”x20” furnace filter to a 20” box fan (don’t run this unattended or at night). See instructions here: https://www.montanawildfiresmoke.org/diy-fan-filter.html