The active wildfires in our state present many dangers, including the impact wildfire smoke has on our health. The smoke produced by wildfires can also be dangerous to you and your family, even when you don’t live near the wildfire.
Breathing in wildfire smoke can cause symptoms that are relatively minor, such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, and also more dangerous symptoms like as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. We are especially concerned this year with COVID-19 because both impact our respiratory and immune systems and some of the symptoms are the same, like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. If you have COVID-19, breathing in smoke may make your symptoms worse. Smoke can make you more susceptible to respiratory infections, like COVID-19. Some people most vulnerable to wildfire smoke, like those over 65 or with pre-existing conditions, are also those most at risk for serious impacts from COVID-19.
There were already limited ways to protect ourselves from wildfire smoke, and COVID-19 makes it even more challenging.
Here are steps you can take now to protect your health:
- Stay informed about current and forecasted air quality here on the blog and your local clean air agency’s website.
- Reduce outdoor physical activity
- Stay indoors when it’s smoky and keep indoor air clean
- Close your windows and doors to reduce intake of smoke. However, ventilation is good for helping prevent COVID-19, so when air quality is good, open them to get fresh air and reduce potential viral load.
- Improve filtration of indoor air in your home and where you spend most of your time. Making your own can be a less expensive option to filter air and improve indoor air quality in a single room. Filtering indoor air is an effective way to reduce fine particles from wildfire smoke. It can also provide some protection from COVID-19, but this alone is not enough to protect you from COVID-19.
- Avoid burning candles or incense, smoking inside, frying or broiling, or vacuuming (unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter).
- Wear your cloth face covering to slow the spread of COVID-19. While cloth face coverings may help a small amount with smoke, they won’t filter out the fine particles or hazardous gasses.
- N95 respirators, if fitted and worn properly, can reduce exposure to wildfire smoke, but as the supply remains limited, these need to be reserved for workers that are required to wear them for their job.
For more information visit the WA DOH Smoke from Fires