How wildfire smoke can be dangerous to your health

SPOKANE, Wash. — Wildfire season is upon us and when a fire breaks out, the smoke it creates can be just as dangerous.

When it clouds the air and gets inside your home, it can seriously impact your health.

Summer and fall air quality in Spokane can often be impacted by regional wildfires.

This results in air pollution that is unhealthy for everyone.

During times of poor air quality, Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) and Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air) urge residents to understand the health risks associated with wildfire smoke and take precautions to protect their health.

Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles (called PM2.5) from burning vegetation, building materials and other materials.

It can make anyone sick, even someone who is healthy, if there is enough smoke in the air.

While inhaling smoke isn’t good for anyone, some people are especially sensitive and more likely to experience health problems related to wildfire smoke.

These are the symptoms of smoke inhalation:

  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Stinging eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Runny nose
  • Irritated sinuses
  • Wheezing, shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Asthma attack
  • Tiredness
  • Fast heartbeat

There are also specific groups of people who are more susceptible to serious health problems from smoke:

  • Older adults over age 65
  • Infants and children under 18
  • Pregnant women
  • People who smoke
  • People with existing heart, respiratory conditions

More information on the health impacts of wildfire smoke can be found here.

During Smoke Ready Week, Spokane Clean Air is helping the public learn how to keep everyone safe this wildfire season.

When there’s smoke in the air, you’ll want to keep your indoor air clean and prevent these health issues.

Create a cleaner-air room in your home with a portable HEPA air cleaner.

They can help reduce particulate levels indoors, as long as they are the right type and size for your home.

Need a low-cost way to clean the air? Try making a box fan filter yourself.

This DIY solution costs under $50.

While it won’t provide the same level of protection as a HEPA air cleaner, it does effectively reduce smoke particles.

If you have an air conditioning unit at home or in your car, switch off the “fresh air intake” when it is smoky outside and use the “recirculate feature” instead. 

More wildfire smoke information can be found on the Spokane Clean Air website.

RELATED: ‘Smoke Ready Week’ prepares community for wildfire season