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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: August 8, 2020

Wildfire smoke preparedness and COVID-19

Wildfire season could yet be on its way. The best way to protect yourself from wildfire smoke is to plan ahead to stay indoors and keep indoor air clean. We’re urging residents to take steps now to prepare for potential smoky days with unhealthy air quality, while continuing to keep up habits to avoid COVID-19.

Overlapping Health Impacts: Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19

While the risk of serious health problems due to wildfire smoke is higher for some groups, breathing smoke from wildfires isn’t healthy for anyone. There is early evidence that shows that being exposed to wildfire smoke can make people more vulnerable to infections that impact our lungs, likely including COVID-19.  When someone gets or is recovering from COVID-19, they may have compromised lung or heart functions. If they are then exposed to wildfire smoke, it may cause even more damage to their health. 

Get Informed, Stay Informed

Know the difference between symptoms from smoke exposure and COVID-19. Symptoms such as dry cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing can be caused by wildfire smoke and COVID-19. However other COVID-19 symptoms (like fever, chills, muscle or body aches) are not related to smoke exposure. If you have symptoms common to wildfire smoke or COVID-19 use the CDC’s self-checker and contact your health care provider. 

Air quality can change quickly. Stay updated on the air quality in your area by checking the forecast regularly on the following sites:  

Get your house ready before wildfire season

The most effective way to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke is to stay indoors and keep the air clean. Protect your health by taking steps to protect your indoor air quality by reducing smoke intake and filtering indoor air. 

Information on indoor air filtration is available from the EPA, and include methods such as: 

  • Increasing HVAC Filtration

An HVAC system is the best way to reduce fine particles (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke throughout your home, rather than only a single room. Consult your HVAC manual or an HVAC professional before making improvements

  • Using a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter

When choosing an air cleaner make sure it has been certified through the California Certified Air Cleaning Devices portal, and follow the EPA’s guidance on using and placing air cleaners and filters in the home

  • Making a DIY box fan filter

You can find information about how to make and use a DIY box fan from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s info on DIY air filters, in this video from the Washington Department of Ecology (available in Spanish and Korean.) and a DIY box fan filter user’s guide is available from the Colville Tribes Air Quality Program.

More information is available from the EPA on COVID-19, Wildfires, and Indoor Air Quality, wildfires and indoor air quality, and  creating a clean room.

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