Wildfire Smoke Inhalation Prevention

With wildfire season, comes the potential for dangerous wildfire smoke. North Central Public Health District would like to remind residents in our region to take precautions to avoid illness, due to wildfire smoke inhalation, when air quality reaches unhealthy levels.

Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.

Poor air quality conditions are a health threat and all residents should limit their exposure to smoke. Those with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children, are advised to stay indoors when the air-quality is poor.

Air quality can change quickly. Please visit the Oregon Smoke Blog and the DEQ Air Quality Index links below. DEQ air quality monitoring data is updated hourly and is color-coded for easy to read information. Unfortunately, the only permanent monitors for our region are in The Dalles and Hood River, with Hermiston and Madras 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 take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:
  1. Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area. See the links below for DEQ’s Air Quality Index and Oregon Smoke blog or use the Visibility Index.
  • Avoid working or exercising outdoors when air quality is poor. Limit outdoor sports, work and recreation.
  • Drink lots of water – staying hydrated can keep your airways moist which will help reduce symptoms of respiratory irritation such as scratchy throat, running nose and coughing.
  • Try to avoid driving in smoky areas. If you do need to drive in these areas, keep your windows rolled up and vents closed. If you need air conditioning, make sure you set your system on “re-circulate” to avoid bringing smoke into your car.
  • Avoid smoke by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and use a filter in your heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter. Portable air cleaners with HEPA filters can also help keep indoor air cleaner in smaller spaces.
  • People with concerns about health issues, including those suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems, should follow their breathing management plans; keep medications on hand, and contact healthcare providers if necessary.
  • Use of masks or bandanas doesn’t filter out gases or fine particles. An N95 respirator can provide some protection, but only if the person using it has had a fit-test to make sure it fits properly, and the respirator is worn correctly. N95 respirators are not available in children’s sizes. For more information about the use of masks, please visit the OSHA & OHA Statement on masks link below. For respirator use in the workplace, contact your employer or Oregon OSHA at the link below.
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 Wildfire Smoke.

OHA Wildfires & Smoke.

OSHA & OHA Statement on N95, KN95 and P100 masks Oregon OSHA Respirator use in the workplace.