How Wildfire Smoke Can Impact Our Health

This year, the smoke from the wildfires burning near our community has created terrible air conditions. When the smoke levels get this high, even normally healthy people may have health problems or symptoms. The best thing that we all can do during this time is to limit our exposure to the smoke outside.

When you are inside, it is important to keep the air in your home or workplace as clean as possible. To do this, it is recommended to keep windows and doors closed. HEPA filters are also a great tool to reduce indoor air pollution. It is important to avoid smoking, using wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, burning candles, or vacuuming.

The Oregon Health Authority and American Lung Association recommend these steps to keep indoor air healthy:

Make sure all windows and doors are shut. Place damp towels under doors or in other crevices where polluted air might leak in.

Refrain from doing activities that stir up dust already inside your home. Limit vacuuming unless your vacuum has a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

Check your heating filters daily due to the amount of wildfire smoke. You will need to change or clean them more often. Make sure you have the right size filter to ensure as many particulates as possible are being filtered and they are not going around the filter. Have backup filters ready.

If you have a central heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, set the fan to “on,” rather than “auto,” to make sure the fan is constantly circulating and filtering air.

If you have a fresh air system, turn it off while the wildfire smoke is in and around your area. Turn it back on after the smoke has subsided.

A short-term solution to a rooftop HVAC is to turn the system off at the thermostat, or duct tape cardboard or a large trash bag over the economizer hood to prevent outside air from coming in. Make sure you remove this when the smoke has subsided.

If having eye irritation from the smoke, apply ice water on a washcloth to closed eyelids. This can stabilize cells that release the chemicals causing your symptoms. 

We know that not everyone has the luxury of staying inside. There are many firefighters and first responders who are risking their lives to keep people safe, and we are beyond grateful to them. There are also plenty of other jobs that still have to go on outside, even in these conditions. In those cases, it is important to have a properly fitting N95 mask. Any paper or dust mask will not cut it to keep dangerous particles in the air from getting into your body.

Our thoughts go out to those who have been personally affected by these fires, whether they are or know a first responder, they have lost their home, or even they are dealing with the general anxiety of these terrible fires. Our clinic is still open and operating at normal hours, and we are here to help in any way we can!