What you need to know to protect your family
Smoke from wildfires is currently affecting much of Washington. The Washington State Department of Health shares health and safety information to help protect you and your family from wildfire smoke:
Smoke from Fires
Outdoor smoke from wildfires and other outdoor files contains very small particles and gases, including carbon monoxide, that can get into your eyes and lungs which can cause health problems and aggravate existing conditions. Possible problems include:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation (burning eyes and runny nose)
- Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and headaches
- Aggravation of existing lung, heart and circulatory conditions, including asthma and angina
Who Is Most Sensitive to Smoke?
Inhaling smoke is dangerous for all of us, but particularly for those who are especially sensitive to smoke including:
- People with lung diseases and conditions including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis and emphysema
- People with respiratory infections such as a cold or the flu
- People with heart or circulatory problems, including congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease and angina
- People with a prior history of heart attack or stroke
- Infants and children
- Adults over age 65
- Smokers with lower lung function or lung disease
Symptoms to Watch For
- Coughing, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, stinging eyes and runny nose
- Worsened symptoms for those with heart or lung disease
- People with heart disease may experience chest pain, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, and fatigue
- Those with pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma, COPD or allergies may experience worsened symptoms such as an ability to breathe normally, coughing with or without mucus, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath
- Even healthy people can experience these symptoms or health problems when smoke levels are high.
If symptoms are serious, call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance.
How to Protect Yourself
- Check local air quality reports and listen to news or health warnings for your community. Check the Washington Smoke Information blog here, visit their air quality map here or the state air quality website here.
- Avoid physical exertion outdoors (e.g., exercise, swimming, hiking, mowing the lawn, playing outdoors) if smoke is present and/or air quality is categorized as unhealthy, very unhealthy or hazardous. People with asthma and lung and heart conditions may be extra sensitive and may experience symptoms when air quality is categorized as moderate.
- Avoid driving if possible. If you must drive, keep the windows and vents closed. Most vehicles can re-circulate inside air rather than drawing in outside air.
- If you have asthma or other lung diseases, follow your doctor’s instructions on taking medications and following your plan of care. Call your health provider if your symptoms get worth.
- Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible including:
- Keep windows and doors closed. If you don’t have air conditioning and it is too hot to keep them closed, consider leaving the area until the danger has passed.
- If you must be outside, consider wearing a face mask or a respirator mask labeled N95 or N100. Face masks will not work for everyone. Learn more about smoke and face masks here.
- Run an air conditioner, set it to re-circulation and close the fresh-air intake. Make sure to change the filter regularly.
- Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollution.
- Don’t add to indoor pollution with candles, fireplaces or gas stoves.
- Don’t vacuum which can stir up particles already in your home.
- Don’t smoke which adds to the pollution.
- Some room air cleaners can help remove smoke particles indoors.
- Get more information about keeping indoor air free of smoke here.
[Source: Washington State Department of Health, reprinted with permission]
Current fire map, as of 9 AM, August 5, 2017: