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Protecting yourself from wildfire smoke

Image of people overlooking a city skyline full of smoke.

Smoke-driven air quality is once again an issue throughout CA – also happens to be the home of the Care Package Direct team. We’re in the process of helping friends and family with evacuation plans which is heart-breaking but we’re doing what we can to help. For everyone else there is the air quality. It can cause activation of asthma issues, COPD, and worse if it gets really bad. There are things that everyone could do. I believe Kaiser Permanente had summarize thing quite nicely and its worth summarizing and providing these resources to everyone. And if there is anything else we can do to help, we’ll be here. 

Follow basic precautions for wildfire smoke and poor air quality:

  • Check air quality reports and use common sense. Air quality can change quickly. If it’s smoky, avoid outside activities.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible. Close doors and windows.
  • Set your car air conditioner to recirculate air instead of drawing in outside air.
  • Consider going somewhere with better air quality if you have symptoms from smoke that aren’t getting better.
  • Have a plan for where you’ll get care if needed, if you evacuate or leave the area.

There are some important differences you should understand between masks that protect you from smoke (N95 or KN95 masks) and those that protect you and others from COVID-19.

  • Adults may benefit from using an KN95 mask if they have one and must be outdoors. KN95 masks do protect the wearer as well as others so its a bit more protection than cloth masks or surgical-grade 3-Ply masks)This helps protect you from unhealthy air. Masks must be fitted properly. Masks and cloth face coverings that help slow the spread of COVID-19 aren’t effective for smoke.
  • We don’t recommend children wear KN95 or N95 masks. They aren’t made for children and may not fit properly. They won’t protect them from smoke. Masks and cloth face coverings can also obstruct breathing in babies and young children. It’s best to keep children indoors to reduce smoke exposure.

As for Asthma and COPD sufferers, Kaiser Permanente has some specific recommendations:

If you have a respiratory condition like asthma or COPD, smoke can make symptoms worse or cause a flare up. In addition to the basic precautions above, be sure to:

  • Follow your asthma action plan.
  • Use your daily asthma and COPD medicines, and any allergy medicine.
  • Watch for symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.

If you have an asthma or COPD flare up:

  • Use your daily asthma and COPD medicines, and any allergy medicine.
  • Use your quick-relief medicine (albuterol) as needed.
  • Try not to panic. Timely treatment at home may help prevent serious breathing problems.
  • If you’re still having symptoms after using your medication, or you need an urgent refill, call your doctor. If you are part of the Kaiser network you should call their 24/7 Appointment and Advice Call Center at 866-454-8855.

Additional Resources