How to Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke during the COVID-19 Pandemic: CDC

Wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that cause COVID-19.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, preparing for wildfires might be a little different this year.  Know how wildfire smoke can affect you and you loved ones during the COVI-19 pandemic and what you can do to protect yourselves.

Image Credit: Victoria Zou

Take actions to protect yourself from wildfire smoke during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The best way to protect against the potentially harmful effects of wildfire smoke is to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke, for example, by seeking cleaner air shelters and cleaner air spaces.
  • Limit your outdoor exercise when it is smoky outside or choose lower-intensity activities to reduce your smoke exposure.

Create a cleaner air space at home to protect yourself from wildfire smoke during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Use a portable air cleaner in one or more rooms. Portable air cleaners work best when run continuously with doors and windows closed.
  • If you use a do-it-yourself box fan filtration unit, never leave it unattended.
  • During periods of extreme heat, pay attention to temperature forecastsexternal icon and know how to stay safe in the heat.
  • Whenever you can, use air conditioners, heat pumps, fans, and window shades to keep your cleaner air space comfortably cool on hot days.
  • If you have a forced air system in your home, you may need to speak with a qualified heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional about different filters (HEPA or MERV-13 or higher) and settings (“Recirculate” and “On” rather than “Auto”) you can use to reduce indoor smoke.
  • Avoid activities that create more indoor and outdoor air pollution, such as frying foods, sweeping, vacuuming, and using gas-powered appliances.

Know the difference between symptoms from smoke exposure and COVID-19.

  • Some symptoms, like dry cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing can be caused by both wildfire smoke exposure and COVID-19.
  • Learn about symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms like fever or chills, muscle or body aches, and diarrhea are not related to smoke exposure. If you have any of these symptoms, the CDC COVID-19 Self-Checker can help you determine whether you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. If you have questions after using the CDC COVID-19 Self-Checker,  contact a healthcare provider.
  • If you have severe symptoms, like difficulty breathing or chest pain, immediately call 911 or the nearest emergency facility.

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