Wildfire smoke can irritate lungs, cause inflammation, affect the immune system, and make a person prone to lung infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for possible wildfires might be a little different this year.
The CDC is encouraging people to learn how wildfire smoke can affect you and your loved ones during the pandemic, and to learn what to do for protection.
Masks that are used to slow the spread of COVID-19 will offer little protection against wildfire smoke because the masks do not catch small, harmful particles in the smoke that can damage a person’s health.
The N95 respirators can provide protection from wildfire smoke, but might be in short supply as front line health care workers use them during the pandemic.
Here are some tips offered by the CDC to prepare for wildfires and smoke.
- Limit outdoor exercise or choose lower-intensity activities to reduce smoke exposure.
- Create a cleaner air space at home by using a portable air cleaner. Never leave a do-it-yourself box fan filtration unit unattended. Use air conditioners, heat pumps, fans and window shades to keep the cleaner air space cool on hot days. Avoid activities that create more indoor air pollution, such as frying foods, sweeping, vacuuming and using gas-powered appliances.
- Talk with a health care provider about how to protect yourself against smoke. Stock up on medications taken routinely.
- Have disaster supplies delivered. If delivery is not possible, take recommended precautions to protect yourself and others while running errands.
- Have a family disaster plan in place for potential evacuation. If necessary, check for pet-friendly shelters. Seek out cleaner air shelters and cleaner air spaces to move to.
The CDC also recommends that people know the difference between symptoms from smoke exposure and symptoms from COVID-19. If you have difficulty breathing or chest pain, immediately call 911 or the nearest emergency facility.
Those most at risk from the harmful health effects of wildfire smoke are: Children age 18 and younger; adults age 65 and older; pregnant women; people with chronic health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, asthma and diabetes; outdoor workers; people who have lower socioeconomic status, including homelessness or limited access to medical care; and, people who are immunocompromised or take drugs that suppress the immune system.
Published September 02, 2020