Protect Your Health When Air Quality is Poor

With all the wildfire activity, North Central Public Health District would like to be sure you have the information needed to protect yourself from wildfire smoke.

Wildfire smoke is a health threat that can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. Those with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children, are advised to stay indoors when the air quality is poor.

Protect your health when air quality is poor:

  • Residents are urged to stay inside if possible and keep windows and doors closed.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.
  • Be aware of smoke in your area and avoid places with the highest levels.
  • Use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These can be portable filters or can be installed in indoor heating, ventilation, cooling and air purification systems (HVAC).
  • Those with heart or lung disease or asthma, should follow their breathing management plans; keep medications on hand, contact your healthcare provider when necessary and follow your healthcare provider’s advice.
  • Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated can keep your airway moist to reduce respiratory irritation such as scratchy throat, runny nose and coughing.
  • Avoid driving in smoky areas. If you must drive in a smoky area, roll windows up. If you need air conditioning, set system on “recirculate” to avoid bringing smoke into your vehicle.

Cloth, dust and surgical masks don’t protect from the harmful particles of smoke. N95 masks may provide protection, if you’ve been fit tested to ensure proper fit and if you wear them correctly. Otherwise, they might

just provide a false sense of security. For more information, see link to CDC Respirator Factsheet below. For respirator use in the workplace, contact your employer or Oregon OSHA at the link below.

Air quality can change quickly. Please visit the DEQ Air Quality Index and Oregon Smoke Blog, links below. DEQ air quality monitoring data is updated hourly and is color-coded for easy to read information.

Unfortunately, the only permanent monitor for our region is in The Dalles, with Hermiston and Prineville being the next closest monitors. A link is also provided below with information on the 5-3-1 Visibility Index, if

there’s not a monitor near you.

Please see the attached FAQ about wildfire smoke & public health and visit the links below for additional information:

Oregon Smoke Blog for the latest on fires and air quality across the state.

 DEQ’s Air Quality Index for current air quality conditions.

 DEQ’s 5-3-1 Visibility Index for estimating smoke levels via visual observation. CDC fact sheet about the health threats from wildfire smoke.

CDC Respirator Factsheet.

OHA Reducing Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke. Oregon OSHA Respirator use in the workplace.

(For more information, please contact North Central Public Health District at 541-506-2600 or visit us on the web at or our Facebook Page at