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Recommendations for wildfire smoke and COVID-19
There is concern about the health impacts of wildfire smoke overlapping with COVID-19 because both impact respiratory and immune systems.
Overlapping health impacts of wildfire smoke and COVID-19
Breathing in wildfire smoke by itself can produce harmful health effects. These range from minor symptoms, such as eye, nose, and throat irritation or headaches, to more severe symptoms like shortness of breath, chest tightness, asthma attacks, and worsening existing chronic conditions. Some of these respiratory symptoms, including dry cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing, are also common to COVID-19.
Populations sensitive to wildfire smoke exposures include people with heart and lung diseases, people with respiratory infections, people with diabetes, stroke survivors, infants, children, pregnant women, and people over 65 years of age.
Reducing exposure to wildfire smoke during COVID-19
The following identifies normal recommendations to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke and provides additional guidance for this year, as many of these recommendations are impacted by COVID-19 related restrictions.
Stay indoors and keep indoor air clean
When the air quality is poor from wildfire smoke, reduce outdoor physical activity. As the air quality worsens you will need to go indoors and take additional steps to keep smoke out of your home to improve indoor air quality.
Reduce intake of smoke into your home
To keep indoor air clean and wildfire smoke from entering your home:
- Close windows and doors when it is smoky outside. Track the air quality and open your windows for fresh air when the air quality improves.
- Pay attention to heat and take steps to keep it cool indoors by closing curtains during daylight, using an air conditioner or fans. If it’s still too hot, open windows to avoid heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses.
- Set air conditioners on recirculate to prevent intake of outside air.
- Turn off fans that vent to the outside, like the one in your bathroom. Exhaust fans pull outside air in through cracks around windows and doors.
Avoid activities that create indoor air pollution
Do not add to indoor air pollution during wildfire smoke events. Avoid the following activities: burning candles or incense, smoking cigarettes, broiling or frying food, and vacuuming (unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter).
Improve indoor air filtration
Click here to visit the EPA indoor air quality site for more information.
There are three ways to improve indoor air filtration of smoke particles in your home:
1. Increase HVAC filtration
Filtration of air in your home will improve the air quality inside your home during wildfire smoke events. The HVAC system is the best way to reduce fine particles (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke throughout your home, rather than only a single room.
2. Use a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter
Improving filtration of air in your home will improve your indoor air quality during wildfire smoke events. Using a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter can reduce fine particles (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke in a single room.
3. Use a DIY box fan filter
Improving filtration of air in your home will improve your indoor air quality during wildfire smoke events. Making your own box fan filters can be a less expensive option to reduce fine particles (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke in a single room. When building your own box fan filter it is important to understand their limitations and the potential risks.
A note on masks
Currently, masks and respirators known to protect against wildfire smoke particles, the N95, are in short supply and are being reserved as personal protective equipment for health professionals. The best way to reduce smoke exposure is to stay indoors.