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Protect Your Lungs from Wildfire Smoke

Protect Your Lungs from Wildfire Smoke

Dry conditions all over America increase the risk of wildfire, especially near drought-stricken wilderness areas. For those living in an area susceptible to wildfire, it’s important to stay alert for wildfire warnings and take action before a fire starts to protect themselves from smoke inhalation.

Wildfires miles away produce smoke that may reach your community. Wildfire smoke consists of gases and fine particles from burning plant materials. Smoke irritates the eyes and respiratory system. For those who suffer from lung disease, inhaling any type of smoke is especially harmful. The easiest ways to protect yourself from wildfire smoke is to stay indoors and reduce physical activity.

Who is Most Affected by Wildfire Smoke?

  • People with heart or lung diseases are at a higher risk of complications from wildfire smoke.
  • Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, perhaps due to their higher tendency to suffer from heart and lung disease.
  • Children are more likely to be affected by smoke because their airways are still developing. Children breathe more air for their body weight than adults and often spend more time outdoors.
  • Pregnant women.

Though older adults, pregnant women, children and people with preexisting conditions are especially at risk to smoke exposure, healthy people can suffer from smoke inhalation as well.

Be Aware of the Symptoms of Increasing Respiratory Distress

Understanding symptoms are key to protecting yourself from further exposure. Once you start to feel symptoms, take action to remove yourself from a situation in which the air might be polluted by wildfire smoke. Keep your eye out for these symptoms:

  • Asthma attack
  • Coughing
  • Greater-than-usual Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Irritated sinuses
  • More than a normal amount of trouble breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Stinging eyes
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath

How to Lower Your Risk

  • Be aware of local air quality reports. Monitor public health messages. In case of wildfire nearby, avoid spending time outdoors. airnow.gov is an excellent resource for tracking air quality in your community.
  • Consult local visibility guides. Some communities monitor the amount of particles in the air, measured by how far they can see.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible. If your community is advised to stay indoors, it’s important to keep windows and doors closed. Run the air conditioner, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to keep contaminated air outside.
  • Avoid polluting your indoor air. Burning anything indoors, whether candles, wood in the fireplace, or even a gas stove, increases indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles in the home, especially in homes with carpet, and smoking is a terrible thing to do to your lungs under the best of conditions.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s advice about medications and your respiratory management plan if you have a lung disease. If you are having trouble breathing, evacuate the area. Your health is worth the inconvenience. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.
  • When driving through smoky areas, keep car windows and vents closed. Set your vehicle air conditioner to recirculate to keep unhealthy contaminated air outside.
  • Invest in a particulate respirator face mask. Contrary to popular belief, common dust masks will not protect you from wildfire smoke, nor will bandanas (wet or dry) surgical masks or tissues. This is because the particles found in wildfire smoke are much too small for a common mask to filter out. You can find particulate respirator masks at many hardware stores and pharmacies. Look for a mask with the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it. Choose a mask that seals against your face with two straps that go around your head, in a size that fits over the nose and chin. These masks can be difficult for those with lung disease to use, so consult with your primary care physician before purchasing.

Wildfire smoke can present breathing problems for the healthiest of people, but it is especially troublesome for those who suffer from lung diseases. If you find yourself in a situation where you are nearby wildfire smoke, know how to protect yourself.

About the Lung Institute

Many lung disease sufferers enjoy an improved quality of life after receiving cellular therapy from the Lung Institute. If you or a loved one suffers from lung disease, contact one of our patient coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to see if you are a candidate for cellular therapy.



  1. Lung Institute

    7 months ago

    Jean Ann:

    Thank you for your comment. We will have to defer answering this question to your primary doctor or specialist. They will be able to address your question or point you in the right direction.

    We’re happy to answer your questions about cellular treatment, so feel free to contact us at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with one of our patient coordinators. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  2. jean ann

    7 months ago

    I have asthma and will be traveling with a mission group from my church to Haiti in January. I’ve been told that there is open burning of trash in the area where we will be. I am claustrophobic but think I could handle a mask if it meant me breathing well or not. do I need a respirator or some other kind of mask? one of my triggers for asthma is smoke.

  3. Lung Institute

    7 months ago


    Thank you for your comment and we hope you are staying safe in that tragic wildfire situation in northern California.

    Basically, common sense is the best guide for changing the N95 mask. That means it traps 95 percent of airborne particles. Here is some advice from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding masks and a link to their website discussing wildfires.

    Discard the respirator when:
    (1) it becomes more difficult to breathe through it, or
    (2) if the inside becomes dirty.
    If necessary, use a fresh respirator each day. Keep your respirator clean and dry. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on use and storage.

    Our team has a wealth of knowledge about cellular therapy, treatment, candidacy and cost. We’re happy to answer your questions. Feel free to give us a call at (855) 313-1149 to speak one-on-one with our dedicated medical team. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


    The Lung Institute

  4. Lisa Sullivan

    7 months ago

    I live in Napa. yesterday the Air Quality index spiked to above 300. i have searched and read as many articles as possible and can not find any information about how often i should be replacing my N95 mask in relation to wildfire smoke. all i could find was information related to indoor health care facilities.

  5. Lung Institute

    8 months ago


    Thank you for your question. It sounds like you are right in the middle of the wildfires devastating the state of California.

    To be honest with you, we don’t know where you would find masks, but we would suggest a local pharmacy, doctor’s office, police/fire station or city/county office.

    We hope you take care and be careful.


    The Lung Institute

  6. Mariagmunoz

    8 months ago

    Where we can get the maSks here in Napa??

  7. Pingback: Lung Institute | Wildfire Smoke: The Health Threat that Never Goes Away

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