Don’t let the time of year fool you. Its wildfire season. You may find it hard to believe, but California’s wildfire season is officially under way so protect yourself from breathing unhealthy smoke from fires.
Fine particles in smoke are so small you can’t always see them and they can easily get into your lungs. Don’t be fooled if you can’t see particles in the air. Once there, they can cause or worsen heart and breathing problems like asthma, and even lead to death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from wildfire smoke:
– Check local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Find out if your community provides reports about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI). In addition, pay attention to public health messages about taking safety measures.
– Keep indoor air as clean as possible. If you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter in a designated evacuation center or away from the affected area.
– Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
– Follow the advice of your doctor or other healthcare provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease.
– Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
– Evacuate from the path of wildfires. Listen to the news to learn about current evacuation orders. Follow the instructions of local officials about when and where to evacuate.