Wildfire Health & Safety: 4 Ways to Protect Your Family From Smoke, Gas & Particles Caused By Wildfires by Elisa Schmitz
The wildfires that are raging in Canada are wreaking havoc on air quality throughout North America. Even though the fires are blazing in Canada, many of the United States are dealing with the worst air quality they've ever seen because of the drifting smoke and toxic particles swirling across the continent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles that can make anyone sick. People with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), heart disease, who are pregnant, and children and first responders are even more at risk.
Breathing in this smoke can cause immediate health effects such as coughing, breathing challenges, wheezing, asthma attacks, stinging eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose, painful sinuses, headaches, tiredness, chest pain and a rapid heartbeat, according to the American Red Cross. But there are steps you can take to protect your family and pets from the smoke, gas and particles caused by wildfires. First and foremost, it's key to reduce your exposure to the smoke.
"Wildfire smoke irritates your eyes, nose, throat and lungs. It can make it hard to breathe and make you cough or wheeze. Children and people with asthma, COPD, heart disease, or who are pregnant need to be especially careful about breathing wildfire smoke," according to the CDC website.
Here are four ways shared by the CDC to protect your health and safety during these unprecedented fires:
- Keep smoke out of your home: close off rooms from outside air and set up a portable air cleaners or filters to keep the air clean even when it’s smoky.
- Reduce smoke exposure by wearing a respirator: A respirator is a mask (such as an N95 or KN95) that fits tightly to your face to filter out smoke before you breathe it in. Wearing the right respirator, and wearing it correctly, is key.
- If you have central air conditioning, use high efficiency filters to capture fine particles: If your system has a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode or close the outdoor intake damper.
- Protect yourself against ash when outside: Wear masks, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and shoes and socks to protect your skin. Wear goggles to protect your eyes. Wash off any ash that gets on your skin or in your eyes or mouth as soon as you can.
Read more about how to protect yourself during wildfires and how to protect yourself after a wildfire on the CDC website.
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