Don’t wait for skies to turn hazy to prepare for wildfire smoke

Jul 15, 2021, 8:00 AM | Updated: Jul 16, 2021, 12:25 pm
Seattle, Puget Sound smoke...
Smoke along the Seattle skyline in September 2020. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

As several wildfires burn in Washington state and across the Pacific Northwest, it’s never too soon to be prepared to deal with wildfire smoke.

Why Puget Sound likely won’t be seeing wildfire smoke this week

If you’re in a part of the state where there is wildfire smoke, experts want you to be alert to signs that the gases and particulates in the smoke may be impacting your health. Those signs include burning or itchy eyes, sore throat, headaches, or nausea.

“That should really be a sign to stop what you’re doing and get in clean air,” said UW Medicine Pulmonologist Dr. Cora Sack.

“The groups that are most susceptible to the health effects of wildfire smoke include the elderly or those over the age of 65, people with underlying health conditions like lung or heart disease, pregnant women, and infants,” Sack explained. “If you’re a sensitive population, you may experience more severe symptoms and health effects, and that could include difficulty breathing or chest pain.”

At that point, Sack says you should call your doctor or go to the emergency room to be evaluated.

That said, you don’t have to be part of an at-risk group or have an underlying health concern to be affected by smoky air.

For those in an area where there’s not yet hazy skies, it’s a good time to make sure you’re prepared.

“Have a plan for what to do if the days get smoky,” Dr. Sack said.

Knowing where you can go to get safe air quality, what to do to prepare your home, and even speaking with your doctor about what to do if you experience any health effects can all be done now.

To improve the air quality in your home, you can close all windows and doors. If you have central air conditioning, Dr. Sack says to put the air on recirculate and make sure you have a good quality filter. If you don’t have central air, you can get a portable air filter, and Dr. Sack recommends a HEPA filter. You can also make your own filter by adding one to a box fan (see a video how-to from the UW here).

Wildfire smoke ruins Redmond winery’s entire 2020 vintage

Dr. Sack noted that as far as using masks as protection in smoky conditions, cloth masks used for COVID-19 aren’t very effective at filtering out the dangerous small particles in wildfire smoke. She says you could wear an N-95 mask to help protect you, but it should be fit tested first.

“Anyone who’s lived in the Pacific Northwest over the past few years has experienced firsthand that wildfire seasons have become more extreme and are lasting longer,” Sack said. “Most of the research to date has focused on what are the short-term effects from breathing smoke. What we don’t know yet are what are the health effects from these longer periods of smoke that accumulate overtime.”

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

Local News

Frank Sumrall

State Rep: ‘None of these locations are suitable’ for a future airport

According to Jason Rantz, the acting chairman of CACC, Warren Hendrickson, stated he believes none of the airport locations will move forward.
1 day ago
(KIRO 7)...
Shawn Garrett, KIRO 7 News

Deputies seize nearly 100 pounds of drugs during Tacoma arrest

Deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department seized nearly 100 pounds of drugs while arresting a man with a felony warrant in Tacoma
1 day ago
police pursuit...
Matt Markovich

Source of pursuit deaths updates controversial data

Stats used by legislators to consider changing police pursuit laws may be in question.
1 day ago
Nicole Jennings

‘Recycle, don’t throw out’ newest message from King County initiative

King County has launched a new initiative to get people to recycle or reuse items before automatically throwing them out.
1 day ago
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Pedestrian hit by train in Belltown, police investigate

Seattle Police are investigating after a man was hit by a train near Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood Thursday night.
1 day ago
Bill Kaczaraba

Lovable radio host Frasier returns, but not to Seattle

Frasier, the lovable but loveless radio host who put Seattle on the map will not be returning to the Emerald City.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Don’t wait for skies to turn hazy to prepare for wildfire smoke