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Protect yourself from smoke

When wildfires burn near you, smoke can reach your community. Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles from burning trees and plants, buildings, and other material. Wildfire smoke can make anyone sick, but people with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or heart disease, or who are pregnant and children and responders are especially at risk.

Breathing in smoke can affect you right away, causing:

  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Asthma attacks
  • Stinging eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Irritated sinuses
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Chest pain
  • Fast heartbeat

Who is at greatest risk from wildfire smoke?

  • People who have lung diseases like COPD or asthma, or heart disease, are at higher risk from wildfire smoke.
    • Stay inside as much as possible. Keep windows and doors closed and turn on an HVAC system or use a portable air filtration unit
    • If you must go outdoors during a Wildfire Smoke event, wear a  NIOSH Approved N95 respirator.
    • Remember that dust masks, surgical masks, bandanas, and breathing through a wet cloth will not protect your child from smoke.
  • Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke. This may be due to their increased risk of heart and lung diseases.
  • Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke. Children’s airways are still developing, and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Also, children often spend more time outdoors engaged in activity and play.
    • If your child has severe trouble breathing, is very sleepy, or will not eat or drink, reduce their exposure to smoke and get medical help right away.
    • Children must stay inside as much as possible. Keep windows and doors closed and turn on an HVAC system or use a portable air filtration unit.
    • If your child has severe trouble breathing, is very sleepy, or will not eat or drink, reduce their exposure to smoke and get medical help right away.
    • Children must stay inside as much as possible. Keep windows and doors closed and turn on an HVAC system or use a portable air filtration unit.
  • Expectant mothers may be more likely to be affected by smoke because of physical changes during pregnancy, like increased breathing rates. Expectant mothers affected by smoke may also be at risk for problems such as preterm birth and babies born with low birth weight.
    • Stay inside as much as possible. Keep windows and doors closed and turn on an HVAC system or use a portable air filtration unit
    • If you must go outdoors during a Wildfire Smoke event, wear a  NIOSH Approved N95 respirator.

Take steps to reduce your risk from wildfire smoke.

  • Be prepared for wildfires.
  • Check local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Find out if your community provides reports about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) or check the AirNow fire and smoke map. In addition, pay attention to public health messages about safety measures.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible if you are advised to stay indoors. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, go to a designated shelter away from the affected area. Learn more about protecting yourself and your family from smoke during a wildfire.
  • Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution. Burning candles, fireplaces, and gas stoves can increase indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home, contributing to indoor pollution. Smoking also puts even more pollution into the air.
  • Follow the advice of your doctor or other health care provider about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease. Consider evacuating if you are having trouble breathing. Call your doctor for advice if your symptoms worsen.
  • If you are pregnant, continue with your prenatal care. Talk to your health care provider about where to get prenatal or delivery services if the office is closed. Know the signs of labor and early labor. If you have these signs, call your health care provider or 9-1-1, or go to the hospital right away if it is safe to travel.
  • 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. Read more on choosing and using respirators to protect your lungs from smoke and ash
Contact Montezuma County Environmental Health Specialist 
Contact Montezuma County Septic/Wastewater Specialist
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