Lung Protection for COPD Patients in Wildfire Areas

With all the fires burning in California, we wanted to give you some quick information on how to protect yourself from lung irritation if you’re located near a fire. If you have COPD, inhaling wildfire smoke can be especially harmful.

The best protection 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.

Information for this article was obtained from the Washington State Department of Health.

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