Minimizing the effects of wildfire smoke during COVID-19

Posted: June 29, 2020

Wildfire smoke occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic can increase susceptibility to the virus and other infections by causing irritation to the respiratory system, resulting in altered immune function.

Populations vulnerable to smoke, including those with compromised immune systems, children under 18, pregnant women, adults 65 and over, and outdoor workers need to be aware of this risk.

How to reduce risk from wildfire smoke

Inform your community about these actionable steps that they can take to minimize the respiratory effects of wildfire smoke.

  • Check the Air Quality index or Air Now to make informed decisions about daily activities.
  • If air quality is compromised outside, seek cleaner air spaces inside.
  • Use air conditioners, heat pumps, fans and window shades to keep air space comfortably cool on hot days. Try not to use equipment that circulates in air from the outside.
  • Limit outdoor exercise when it is smoky outside or choose lower-intensity activities to reduce smoke exposure.
  • Use an N95 respirator for protection from wildfire smoke. (These respirators might be in short supply as front-line healthcare workers need them during the pandemic.)
  • Ask healthcare providers to recommend protections against wildfire smoke. Stock up now on medicine and essential supplies to minimize outdoor shopping trips. Use home delivery if possible.
  • In the event of an evacuation, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for staying safe and healthy in a public disaster shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resources to help your community prepare for wildfire smoke events

The Environmental Protection Agency provides a Smoke Ready toolbox to help your community be better prepared for wildfire smoke. Additional tools available include:

Prevent wildfires: actions that your community can take

Now more than ever, it is important that we all help to reduce the incidence of wildfire events and the smoke they emit. Teach your community how to prevent accidental ignitions and inform residents how to create safer communities by taking simple and often low cost actions to reduce the potential for homes to ignite during a wildfire.

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