Wildfire smoke can be unhealthy to breathe, especially for vulnerable people such as those with existing heart or lung disease, children, older adults and pregnant women. Always pay attention to how the smoke is making you feel and check with your doctor right away for help managing symptoms or any specific concerns.
No Cost Ways to Lower Smoke Exposure
- Know your air quality. Smoke levels can change a lot during the day so watch for periods of cleaner air to run errands, exercise, or do outdoor chores. Look for opportunities to open windows and doors to let cleaner air into your home if smoke clears.
- Go online to track fires and smoke here: https://fire.airnow.gov/
- Use visibility to gauge smoke levels. If you can see less than 5 miles, smoke has reached unhealthy levels.
- Have a smartphone? Download the Smoke Sense App. https://www.epa.gov/air-research/smoke-sense-study-citizen-science-project-using-mobile-app
- Learn the colors of the AQI (air quality index) and what they mean for actions you can take to protect your health. See the AQI table on the next page.
- Stay inside with doors and windows closed when it’s smoky. Use towels to block air flow if smoke is coming in through gaps in window or door frames. But don’t overheat! Open doors and windows if you must to cool down. Watch for times when smoke may clear and open windows and doors to clear out smoke that has gotten inside.
- Reduce indoor pollution you can control. Reduce or eliminate any type of smoking. No vacuuming, no candles, no incense, no aerosol sprays. Reduce or eliminate use of gas, propane, or wood burning stoves for heat. Do not fry or broil food.
- Take it easy. Smoky air is not good for strenuous activities by adults, children and pets. If it looks or smells smoky outside put off any activity that requires prolonged or heavy exertion such as running, hiking or mowing the lawn.
- Set air to recirculate on your HVAC or window air conditioner if you have one.
- Reduce smoke in your vehicle if you’re out in your car by closing the windows and vents and running the air conditioner on recirculate.
Low to Medium Cost Ways to Lower Smoke Exposure
- Leave the smoky area for a few hours or a few days if you cannot keep the air in your home clean or cool. Consult the fire and smoke map to check on areas that may not be affected by smoke. https://fire.airnow.gov
- Upgrade your HVAC filters. If you have an HVAC system, upgrade the filters to a “MERV 13” or higher and run the system on recirculate. Filters will need to be changed more often when it’s smoky. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions or an HVAC system specialist.
- Buy a HEPA portable air cleaner. For about $100-$300 you can purchase a HEPA portable air cleaner (PAC) and use it to clean the air in a room in your home (often a bedroom when smoke impacts are greatest at night). Avoid a PAC that generates ozone as these can harm your health.
- Build a simple box fan filter. For as low as $50 you can build an air filter by taping a 20”x20” MERV 13 air filter to a 20” box fan. Use a fan purchased after 2012. Fans older than 2012 may over heat and ignite when run with the filter for long periods of time. Be sure to change out the filter when it becomes dirty.
See instructions here: https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/how-to-make-a-box-fan-air-purifier/