Each year, wildfires rage across the U.S. They have already begun in California this year. Smoke in the air contains tiny particles that affect air quality. These particles can irritate your eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Poor air quality can worsen asthma symptoms. Children and those with respiratory disease like asthma are at high risk for asthma episodes when the air quality is poor.
Wildfires do not only affect those in the immediate fire area. Smoke can blow many miles away and impact people hundreds of miles away.
Be Prepared to Evacuate
If you live in an area that is prone to wildfires, you may need to prepare to evacuate. You will need to manage your asthma and any other health conditions in the event of an emergency. Have a disaster kit ready to go in case you need to leave your home quickly.
Protect Yourself From Wildfire Smoke
If you are in an area affected by wildfire smoke, take precautions to protect yourself and your family from the poor air quality. If you are "down wind" from active fires, it is important to watch your air quality.
- Monitor the situation around you:
- Check your local air quality at AirNow.gov. You can also sign up to receive air quality email notices for your ZIP code.
- Check current fire conditions at AirNow.gov.
- Check real-time smoke monitoring data, from U.S. Forest Service.
- Stay indoors as much as possible and reduce physical activity outside.
- Keep window and doors closed to help prevent polluted outside air from getting in.
- Avoid using anything that burns, such as wood fireplaces, gas logs, gas stoves and candles.
- Don't do things in your home that stirs up particles already inside your home.
- Run your air conditioner if you have one. Set the air intake to "recirculate" and keep the filter clean. If you don't have air conditioning, staying inside with the windows closed may become dangerous if the weather is extremely hot. Seek alternative shelter.
- If you must go outdoors, wear a mask with a particulate respirator. Look for NIOSH and N95 or P100 printed on the mask. It should have two straps and should cover your nose and chin.
- Carry your quick-relief medicine with you wherever you go and follow your Asthma Action Plan.
- Keep children in areas with cleaner air. Masks with particulate respirators are not recommended for children because they may not fit properly.
- Take steps to improve your indoor air quality as much as possible. Improve your home's indoor air quality by using CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® products, such as air filters, air cleaners, HVAC systems, vacuums and more. To find out if a product meets our scientific standards to become CERTIFIED, look for this mark on the product's package or advertisements:
Protect Yourself During Cleanup
Disasters generate debris that can include building rubble, trees and shrubs, personal property, ash and charred wood. Follow your community management guidelines for disposal. Learn more from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about handling debris.
Smoke and ash contain harmful particles that can irritate even healthy lungs.
- If you have to clean up ash on your property, wear a mask with a particulate respirator. Wash your clothes and shower as soon as possible after exposure.
- Keep children away from areas with ash until it has been cleaned.
- If your home has water damage, take steps to protect yourself from mold.