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Air Pollution Science Healthcare

Fires & Air Quality: Tips to Protect Yourself Against Pollution & Smoke

Picture of Ran Korber
By Ran Korber on November, 29 2016
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Wildfires are sadly common during the summer months. However they’ve also been happening this November in Israel and the United States.

While the material and human destructions never go unnoticed, the impact fires can have on our health due to air pollution tend to be overlooked. This article is not about the science behind fire air pollution, but a simple checklist with the appropriate steps to follow to protect your health and your loved ones when there's a fire nearby.

Alert and evacuate

If the fire is close to you, call the fire department or your national emergency number.
Depending on the type of fire and its size, try to turn it off, or evacuate your location.

If the fire is not directly close to you and you’re not in a danger zone, you can still be harmed by it. A surrounding fire emits large amounts of particulate matter that affect our health and especially our lungs. Young children, old or sick people are the most sensitive populations to particulate matter pollution.

Limit your exposure to fires' air pollution

First, limit your exposure: if you can, go far away from the fire.

Not possible? Close all the doors and windows, so newly created air pollution won't go inside. If there is a space between the door and the floor, put a wet towel to close this gap. Turning on an air purifier will help improve indoor air quality.

If it’s really too hot or too cold inside, turn on your air conditioner / heater. It usually comes with filters, which won’t filter all the air pollution from the outside but are still a better option than opening a window. If there’s such an option, use the indoor circulation / air recirculation option. The same precautions should be followed when in a car.

Consider putting a mask or a piece of cloth on your mouth and nose (especially if you need to go outside). But remember it won't filter 100% of the pollution.

child wearing mask against air pollution

Monitor your health

Drink plenty of water to avoid medical complications. If you feel any of the following symptoms, ask for medical aid:
Fainting, nausea, headache, coughing, hoarseness, chest pain, coughing up blood, trouble breathing or noisy breathing, abdominal pain, eye irritation, vision problems.

Don’t add to the pollution

Avoid doing things that will worsen the air pollution such as:

  • using your fireplace for heating
  • smoking cigarettes
  • overcooking your food
  • using fans: it will move or raise the particles that had already settled down.

Postpone outdoor exercising

You should avoid sport activities while there’s a fire pollution alert. When you exercise, your breathe more air than at rest, and therefore take in more pollution.

Stay vigilant

Even after the fire has been stopped, continue following this checklist until air quality outside is back to healthy standards.
Check our app to get accurate air quality information at your location.

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