Lung Health and Respiratory Challenges When You Live Near A Fire

Only last October, we published two articles to help those suffering from lung disease who lived in one of the many wildfire areas that were burning throughout California. Unfortunately, those articles bear repeating here, because fires are raging once again throughout the state. So to protect your lungs and avoid unnecessary exacerbations if you live anywhere near a fire, please read on:

The best protection, of course, is to leave the area if you possibly can. If you can’t, then do everything you can to minimize lung irritation. Stay indoors. Reduce your physical activity. If you must go outdoors, it may be a good idea to wear a mask. Use the respirator face masks that have two straps and are approved by the The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (marked N95, N100 or P100). DO NOT use surgical masks!! The approved particle-protecting face masks can be bought at Home Depot, Lowes, and similar stores. Choose a size that fits over your nose and under your chin, and that seals tightly to your face.

Bandanas and towels, whether wet or dry, are not good substitutes for respirator masks; they will not protect your lungs from wildfire smoke.

Do consult with your medical care provider before using a respirator mask, because it may make it harder to breathe. The extra effort it takes to breathe through a respirator mask can make it uncomfortable to use them for very long, especially if you have lung disease.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District provides updated information on the areas suffering from the lowest air quality due to fires. Check the AQMD website for updates on areas affected.

The California Thoracic Society has published an excellent resource called “10 Tips For Staying Healthy During Wild Fires.” We recommend you read it now and take action to protect your health. Click here to read the article.

Information for this article was obtained from the Washington State Department of Health, the AQMD, and the California Thoracic Society.

For more helpful information on protecting your lungs when you’re near a fire, click on these links: