LOCAL NEWS

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

Sound Transit CEO...
Chris Sullivan

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff to step down in 2022

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff will step down in the middle of next year, citing exhaustion brought on by the strain of the role.
1 day ago
Lorena Gonzalez, Seattle homeless crisis...
Nick Bowman

Seattle mayoral candidates unveils expansive plan to address city’s homeless crisis

Seattle Council President and mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez unveiled her plan to address the city's homeless crisis in her first 100 days.
1 day ago
Eviction moratorium...
Nick Bowman

Gov. Inslee extends eviction moratorium ‘bridge’ period through end of October

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that he is extending an eviction moratorium "bridge" period another 30 days. 
1 day ago
72 hour parking enforcement...
Nick Bowman

Seattle ‘reviewing’ recently-reinstated 72-hour parking enforcement policy

The City of Seattle could soon be considering changes to its 72-hour parking enforcement policy for the second time, after it was reinstated in early April.
1 day ago
Unruly passengers...
KIRO Radio Newsdesk

Washington lawmaker calls on FAA to address ‘disgusting’ behavior from unruly airline passengers

Washington Rep. Rick Larsen lead a hearing in the U.S. House Aviation Subcommittee on Thursday to address an uptick in unruly airline passengers. 
1 day ago
Crowd of rioters, January, Epik6, Capitol, officers...
Nick Bowman

Controversial Sammamish web-hosting company falls victim to ‘massive’ hack

Epik, a Sammamish-based hosting company known for its hosting of several controversial websites, was reportedly hacked last week. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...
By Alaska Airlines

Calling all football fans: follow Russell on the road

Take your Northwest spirit that we’re known for on the road this season with Alaska Airlines.
...
By Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
Don’t wait for skies to turn hazy to prepare for wildfire smoke