Protect your respiratory health during wildfire season

August 23, 2023 Swedish Health Team

[4 min read] 

In this article: 

  • Wildfire season is particularly dangerous for people with lung disease. 
  • Safeguarding you overall health and monitoring conditions such as air quality can help you limit the effects of wildfire smoke on your well-being.
  • If you have concerns about your lung or respiratory health, a Swedish pulmonology expert can help.  

It's wildfire season here in the Pacific Northwest. Our pulmonology experts at Swedish want to remind you that if you have a respiratory illness such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or another lung condition, you should take extra care to protect your lungs during smoky season. Here are some tips for navigating wildfire season and protecting your respiratory health: 

Stay informed 

  • Stay updated by regularly checking local air quality reports and listening for news or health warnings about smoke. 
  • Monitor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index which is available at the AirNow website.  This site will show you the location of active fires, smoke maps and real-time information of air quality in your area. 

Protect your indoor environment 

  • When advised to stay indoors, keep windows and doors closed to reduce smoke infiltration. 
  • Use an air conditioner with the fresh air intake closed and a clean filter to prevent outdoor smoke from entering your home. 
  • In case you do not have an air conditioner and it's too warm to keep windows closed, seek shelter in designated areas away from the affected regions. 
  • Refrain from vacuuming during smoky conditions; it can stir up particles and worsen indoor air quality. 

Take precautions if you must go outside 

  • Minimize outdoor activities, especially during times of high smoke levels. 
  • Stay updated on the air quality index in your area before planning outdoor activities. 
  • If you must go outside during smoky conditions, consider wearing a N-95 mask to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke. 

Take care of your health 

  • Adhere to your prescribed medications and the treatment plan recommended by your healthcare providers. 
  • Ensure you have an ample supply of your medications and inhalers with you. Keep all your medicines and tools readily available, including peak flow meters. 
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious meals, drinking plenty of fluids, getting regular exercise indoors and managing stress. 

 Stay in touch with your healthcare team 

  • If you have any questions about your respiratory management plan and medications, reach out to your pulmonary support team.
  • Reach out to your pulmonologist and schedule a visit if you have to; you can connect with your provider in person or virtually. You can also contact them through MyChart or the Swedish app. 
  • Promptly seek medical advice if you experience new or worsening pulmonary symptoms.  

 Staying informed, maintaining a clean indoor environment, venturing outside cautiously, taking care of your overall health and staying in touch with your healthcare team are crucial steps to safeguarding your respiratory well-being during wildfire season.

Learn more and find a provider 

If you have concerns about your respiratory or lung health, contact one of our Swedish pulmonology experts.  

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. For urgent, walk-in or after-hours care, visit one of Swedish Urgent Care facilities. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Additional resources  

Staying safe and healthy during wildfire season 

Wildfires|Washington State Department of Health

Staying safe during a wildfire|U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Wildfires|American Lung Association 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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