Wildfire Smoke And Your Health

N95 Mask

Montana DPHHS Recommendations

If possible, limit your exposure to smoke. Here are 7 tips to help you protect your health:

1. Pay attention to local air quality reports. Watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Pay attention to public health messages and when advised, take extra safety measures such as avoiding spending time outdoors. Go to www.todaysair.mt.gov for a link to air quality reports.

2. Pay attention to visibility guides. Although not every community measures the amount of particles in the air, there are guidelines to help people estimate air quality based on how far they can see. Go to www.todaysair.mt.gov for a link to visibility guides.

3. If you are told to stay indoors, stay indoors and keep your indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed unless it is very hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. Seek shelter elsewhere if you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed.

4. Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles and fireplaces. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke tobacco or other products, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

5. Follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

6. Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Surgical masks or dust masks commonly found at hardware stores trap large particles. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. An “N95” mask, properly worn, will offer some protection. If you decide to keep a mask on hand, see the Respirator Fact Sheet provided by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Filtering face-piece respirators and masks can make the work of breathing more difficult and can lead to increased breathing rates and heart rates. They can also contribute to heat stress. Because of this, respirator use by those with heart and respiratory diseases should only be done under a doctor’s supervision. A wet towel or bandana is not recommended either. While they may stop large particles, fine particles can still get into the lungs.

7. Avoid smoke exposure during outdoor recreation. Before you travel to a park or forest or outdoor event, check air quality reports for the areas you are traveling to and confirm the event has not been cancelled.