Air quality in the Bay Area can become unhealthy due to the drifting smoke from wildfires. There are several things you can do to avoid the effects of heavy smoke.
Take care of yourself:
- Limit time outside.
- Stay hydrated.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Do not engage in strenuous outdoor activities. Wearing a paper mask does not make it safe for you to exercise outdoors.
Improve your space:
- Do not add to the smoke by using anything that creates smoke such as candles or fireplaces.
- Do not vacuum since it stirs up particles.
- Do not smoke.
Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
While you will see many people wearing a disposable respirator, known as an N95, it is not the best option for everyone.
Protective measures, such as wearing a mask, are an individual choice. Consult with your personal health provider for more information if you have existing health issues.
Those who wear them for work undergo training and a medical review to make sure the respirator will not make any health conditions worse. Worn properly, respirators making breathing difficult and can cause respiratory distress for those with underlying health conditions. To work, respirators must make a tight seal to the face, the wearer cannot have facial hair, and it must be changed out. The masks do not fit children properly.
The bottom line is if it makes you feel better, wear one, and if it makes you feel worse take it off. You should speak to your medical provider about the best option for you during a smoke event.
We all need to take responsibility to plan for our health in the event of environmental smoke. Recent wildfires and the smoke they create have shown us that planning for typical disasters, such as earthquakes, are not enough. We need to plan for a smoke event.
- Talk to your doctor and discuss factors that could make your health conditions worse
- Learn how to watch for symptoms that indicate your health conditions may be worsening
- Ask your doctor what actions you can take, such as obtaining prescription medications and devices, before there is an environmental smoke event.
- Keep a list of important emergency contact numbers, such as your healthcare provider and your hospital, with you.