Take steps to protect yourself and others from the wildfire smoke
(Provided by the Monterey County Health Department)
The fires burning in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties are likely to continue to burn for some time. The Monterey County Health Department understands that individuals may be concerned about the effect of the smoke on their health or the health of their loved ones. The Health Department encourages individuals to take steps to protect themselves from smoke from wildland fires.
- Stay informed by signing up for alerts.
- Sign up for Alert Monterey County - www.AlertMontereyCounty.org.
- Text MCFIRES2020 to 888777 to get daily fire updates.
- Additional information available at www.co.monterey.ca.us/2020fires.
- Specifics about the fires can be found at www.fire.ca.gov.
- Learn about the air quality in their area. Information about air quality is available on the Monterey Bay Air Resources District webpage www.mbard.org.
- Weatherize homes and buildings in preparation for wildfires by replacing or refurbishing old leaky windows and doors; use caulking to seal the openings.
- Consider purchasing a non-ozone-producing air purifier (HEPA) to create a cleaner air room in your home or consider purchasing a MERV 13 or greater filter for your HVAC system to be used when experiencing a heavy smoke event.
- Consider upgrading to an HVAC system that allows for both heating and cooling. Be sure it includes a mechanism to switch to “recirculate” to prevent smoke from entering the space.
- Create a personal, family, or group emergency plan, gather emergency supplies, and be ready to evacuate.
PROTECT INDIVIDUALS WITH HEALTH CONDITIONS
- Individuals with health conditions should talk to their physicians to develop a personal plan for dealing with smoke.
- Elderly persons, pregnant individuals, children, and individuals with cardiovascular disease or respiratory illnesses are particularly susceptible to elevated air pollution levels and should take extra precautions to avoid exposure.
- Those with heart or lung disease, older adults, pregnant individuals, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion, and should either reschedule outdoor activities or move them to another location. All individuals should avoid outdoor activity, including exercise, during air quality events.
- Elevated particulate matter in the air can trigger wheezing in those who suffer from asthma, emphysema, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or other respiratory conditions.
- Asthmatics should follow their asthma management plan.
- Keep up to two weeks’ worth of extra medication on hand. Be ready with plans to treat asthma or diabetes when there is smoke.
- Individuals should contact their physician if they have cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms believed to be caused by smoke. Concerned individuals should consult their physician for personalized recommendations.
- Consider leaving the affected area if there is a prolonged heavy smoke event.
TAKE ACTION DURING SMOKE EVENTS
- Shelter in place. Staying indoors with windows and doors closed, where air quality is better, is the best way to protect your health. During high heat and heavy smoke events, keep indoor air cool or visit an air-cooling center.
- Plan to go to a cleaner air location if you are unable to seal your home or if dense smoke occurs during hot weather events and you cannot stay in your home. Heat takes precedent over smoke.
- If you are in an affected area and need to leave your home, ensure you practice physical distancing, cover your cough, wash your hands frequently, and always wear face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- Set air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside.
- Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing cough, a dry scratchy throat, runny nose, trouble breathing, and irritated sinuses. Stay hydrated by drinking water during heavy smoke events.
- Avoid adding additional air pollution by curtailing activities, such as wood burning, lawn mowing, leaf blowing, driving, barbecuing, smoking, or other dust-producing activities. Avoid using hairspray and painting indoors. If possible, use the stove fan when cooking.
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SMOKE EXPOSURE AND COVID-19
People who currently have or are recovering from COVID-19 may be at increased risk of health effects from exposure to wildfire smoke due to compromised heart and/or lung function related to COVID-19.
During this pandemic people may also be concerned about confusing the symptoms of COVID-19 and wildfire smoke exposure. It is important to know the difference between symptoms from smoke exposure and COVID-19.
- Some symptoms, like dry cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing can be caused by both wildfire smoke exposure and COVID-19.
- Learn about symptoms of COVID-19. Symptoms like fever or chills, muscle or body aches, and diarrhea are not related to smoke exposure. If you have any of these symptoms, the CDC COVID-19 Self-Checker can help you determine whether you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. If you have questions after using the CDC COVID-19 Self-Checker, contact a healthcare provider.
- If you have severe symptoms, like difficulty breathing or chest pain, immediately call 911 or the nearest emergency facility.
- COVID-19 is circulating in our community and the best way to protect yourself from the virus and poor air quality is to stay indoors. Face coverings should be worn if in proximity to others outside your household, both indoor and outdoor.
- Face coverings such as bandanas and surgical masks do not protect against wildfire smoke particles but are recommended for protection against COVID-19.
- Taking a mask on and off can cause fine particulate matter and virus particles to build up in the mask, so minimize the number of times you put on and remove your mask.