October 2, 2020

Protect yourself from wildfire smoke

Bad air quality is unhealthy for everyone, but it’s especially dangerous for people with heart and lung conditions. Get tips on staying healthy when it’s smoky outside.

Smoke produced from wildfires contains a mixture of gases and fine particles and can travel far — even hundreds of miles — from its source. This smoke, and the microscopic dust it contains, can irritate your eyes, affect your breathing, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.

While the smoke is unhealthy for everyone, it’s especially dangerous for:

  • People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease
  • Adults age 65 or older
  • Infants and children
  • Pregnant women

If wildfire smoke is affecting your community, you can check your air quality index rating at AirNow.gov.

Wildfire smoke and COVID-19

This year, wildfires are impacting many communities already hit hard by the coronavirus, and some of the symptoms caused by wildfire smoke — including dry cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing — are also common to COVID-19. If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, it’s best to treat it like it could be COVID-19.

In addition, early evidence shows wildfire smoke exposure can make you more susceptible to respiratory infections, including COVID-19. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing during wildfire smoke events.

Remember, if you have COVID-19 symptoms, protect others by staying home, and call your health care provider.

Tips for staying healthy

The best way to avoid the impacts of wildfire smoke is to reduce your exposure to smoke. Follow these steps to help protect yourself:

How to get care

Most Kaiser Permanente medical facilities are currently open and operating during normal hours, so members can call the number on their Kaiser Permanente medical card to schedule an in-person appointment. Phone and video visits are also available. We’re continuously monitoring the impact of outdoor smoke on indoor air quality at all our facilities, and we’re taking steps to help ensure good air quality.