Fires and Your Health
The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. Fine particles also can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases.
If you are healthy, you're usually not at a major risk from short-term exposures to smoke. Still, it's a good idea to avoid breathing smoke if you can help it.
Everyone should take the steps below when wildfires are present.
- Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it's probably not a good time to mow the lawn or go for a run. And it's probably not a good time for your children to play outdoors.
- Pay attention to local air quality reports. Stay alert to smoke-related news coverage or health warnings.
- If you are advised to stay indoors, take steps to keep indoor air as clean as possible. When smoke levels are high, try to avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves - and even candles! Don't vacuum. That stirs up particles already inside your home. And don't smoke. That puts even more pollution in your lungs, and in the lungs of people around you.
- If you have asthma or other lung disease, make sure you follow your doctor's directions about taking your medicines and following your asthma management plan. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
- Run your air conditioner if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. Note: If you don't have an air conditioner, staying inside with the windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In these cases, seek alternative shelter.
- If you have heart or lung disease, if you are an older adult, or if you have children, talk with your doctor about whether and when you should leave the area. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors, even though you may not be able to see them.
- Reduce Your Smoke Exposure
- Protecting Children from Wildfire Smoke and Ash
- Protecting Your Lungs from Wildfire Smoke and Ash
- Indoor Air Filtration
Air Quality Maps:
- AirNow in California (note – this site is experiencing extremely high traffic and may be slow)
- U.S. Forest Service fire and air quality map (service may be intermittant because of heavy traffic; may not work in Internet Explorer)