Friday, August 13, 2021

Wildfire Smoke and Heat: A Double Whammy

When there is smoke, there is often heat. Combined, heat and smoke can become especially dangerous. How can I protect myself from both?

Staying inside and keeping doors and windows closed will keep smoky air out of our homes, but it can be hard to manage indoor temperatures while doing so. If it’s hot indoors and you don’t have air conditioning, these steps can help you stay cooler inside during poor air quality:

  • Reduce the heat indoors: close curtains or shades during the day, use your stove and oven less.
  • Do not rely on a fan as your only cooling source. While electric fans might provide some comfort, they won’t prevent heat-related illness when temperatures are very hot.
  • Cool off by taking a cool bath or shower. Use ice packs or put your feet in cool water.
  • Stay hydrated, especially with water. Avoid sugary or alcoholic drinks—these can be dehydrating.
  • Go to an indoor place that is cooler—even if only for a few hours. Dial 2-1-1 or use the statewide online resource to find cooling centers near you. Language assistance is available.
  • If you plan on visiting a cooling center or staying with friends and family to get a break from the heat, make sure to follow local COVID-19 indoor gathering requirements and respect the rules of the room when it comes to masks.
  • Track the air quality and open your windows when the air quality improves and outdoor temperatures are cooler than inside.
  • If it’s still too hot and the outside air quality is poor: open windows when outdoor temperatures are cooler than inside and take steps to filter indoor air. 

 As always, for wildfire smoke:

  • Reduce outdoor physical activity and take it easy inside.
  • Set air conditioners to re-circulate.
  • Improve filtration of indoor air: upgrade your home HVAC system filtration to a MERV 13 filter (or the best your system can handle), buy a HEPA portable air cleaner, or build a DIY box fan filter.
    • There are technical details involved with all of these options. See our previous post.
  • Don’t add to air pollution. Avoid burning candles or incense, smoking, diffusing essential oils, broiling or frying foods, and vacuuming (unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter).
  • Seek clean air elsewhere, if the air quality remains poor and it is not possible to keep the air in your home clean or cool.

For more information see the Health Information Tab or visit WA DOH’s Smoke from Fires webpage.

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