Wildfires: How to stay protected

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In affected areas:
Don’t go outside if at all possible. The best protection is to avoid exposure. Masks are no substitute for avoiding the exposure all together.

MASKS can help reduce exposure if you have to be outside in high smoke areas. Use an NIOSH branded, N95 or P100 mask, properly fitted.’ They pose special concerns for people with lung diseases who would have additional difficulties breathing with them because of their disease. People with lung diseases should consult with their doctors about using a mask.

THE ‘DAMP CLOTH’ OPTION may be an emergency substitute, but with the availability of N95 respirator masks, it may be a good idea to have an N95 ready in case of evacuation or emergency. If caught unexpectedly in a smoke situation, a damp rag would likely be better than nothing, but it has greater limitations.

POLLUTION LEVELS may vary in different areas.’ Some areas are likely to have pockets of higher or lower pollution levels than would appear in a county alert. Assume that if there is an air pollution warning in your area (and certainly, if there are no warnings, but you can see or smell smoke), take precautions, which will include special precautions for people at highest risk (children, older adults, people with lung or heart disease and diabetes).

IF EXPOSURE to asbestos or other hazardous materials are suspected, do not disturb the area. Dust masks do not protect against asbestos.

CALL 1.800.586.4872 to automatically reach your nearest American Lung Association or to speak with registered nurses and respiratory therapists at our free HelpLine.

GENERAL
RECOMMENDATIONS

REMAIN INDOORS People living in fire-stricken areas should remain indoors and avoid inhalation of smoke, ashes and particulate matter in the air.’ It is recommended that people in the immediate and surrounding areas of the fires refrain from exercising outdoors; particularly if they smell smoke or notice eye or throat irritation.

CLOSE WINDOWS AND AIR VENTS When driving your car through smoky areas, keep your windows and air vents closed. Air conditioning should only be operated in the ‘recirculate’ setting.

For those with respiratory problems, including asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, who live in immediate and surrounding areas of fires should:

STAY INDOORS as much as possible, with doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and/or air cleaners and purifiers. Use air conditioners on the recirculation setting so outside air will not be moved into the room.

IF OUTDOOR TRIPS
in smoky areas are necessary, breathe through a damp cloth to help filter out particles in the air.

THOSE WITH ASTHMA should optimize their use of medication during this time and be sure to have medication(s) (pills, inhalers) available in case of asthma attacks, and should consult with their physicians regarding appropriate dosages for asthma prevention.

PEOPLE WITH OXYGEN should not adjust their level of intake before consulting their physicians.

IF PULMONARY SYMPTOMS
are not relieved by usual medicines, seek medical attention. Symptoms to watch for are: wheezing; shortness of breath; difficulty taking a full breath; chest heaviness; light headedness and dizziness.

IF A PERSISTENT COUGH is developed or difficult or painful breathing, contact your physician. It is important to be aware that the onset of symptoms can appear as late as 24 to 48 hours after exposure and that smoke can remain in areas for many days after the fires have ended.

Information provided by the American Lung Association of California.