Wildfires in the Northwest have increased since the 1980s. Scientists attribute this to human-caused climate change. This means more bad air days from wildfire smoke in Multnomah County.
When wildfires burn, winds can push smoke into populated areas. Wildfire smoke is full of different pollutants, including particulate matter and carbon monoxide. We also see high ozone levels. Breathing in smoke can cause health problems, including respiratory problems and asthma, that can be especially unsafe for sensitive groups and healthy adults.
Check local air quality online or call 503-229-5696.
For air quality conditions and health guidance on-the-go, download the Smoke Sense App on your phone.
Know your risk:
These groups are at a higher risk from smoke exposure:
- Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or another respiratory infection
- People with heart or lung conditions, such as asthma, COPD, or cardiovascular disease
- Infants and children
- Older adults
- Pregnant people
Respiratory symptoms such as dry cough, sore throat, and difficulty breathing are common to both wildfire smoke exposure and COVID-19. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms.
Protect your health during a smoke event:
- Learn about the air. Listen, watch and look up information.
- Avoid smoky air and keep indoor air clean. Close doors and windows, set AC to recirculate, use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter, and/or go to a place with AC if it’s hot and smoky*.
- Do not add to indoor air pollution. Do not use anything that burns, such as candles, incense, fireplaces, cigarettes or gas stoves. Avoid frying or broiling when cooking. Do not vacuum.
- Do not rely on masks or bandanas for protection. Not all masks are effective and can provide a false sense of protection from smoke. An “N95” respirator, properly worn, can offer some protection but may be in short supply. Masks and face coverings help reduce transmission of COVID-19, but do not protect against smoke.
- Maintain healthy behaviors. Drink lots of water; Eat balanced meals; Exercise indoors; Don’t smoke; Listen to your body and contact a healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms of smoke irritation.
*During the COVID-19 pandemic, finding cleaner air can be more challenging because of physical distancing guidelines and limited access to public facilities such as libraries, community centers, and malls.
Prepare for a smoke event:
- Create a clean air room at home to protect from wildfire smoke during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Consider purchasing a portable air cleaner: Select a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or an electro-static precipitator (ESP). Buy one that matches the room size specified by the manufacturer. Check the California Air Resources Board (CARB) certified air cleaners that produce little or no ozone; see their list at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/aircleaners/certified.htm
- or, build your own box fan filter: Watch this video (part 3) and follow .
- Clean or replace air filters if you have AC or an air cleaner.
- Learn about masks. An “N95” respirator, properly worn (Watch this video), can offer some protection but may be in short supply. Masks and face coverings help reduce transmission of COVID-19, but do not protect against smoke.
- Have several day supply of medications and groceries that don’t require cooking.
COVID-19 and Wildfire: CDC COVID-19 and wildfire FAQ
For Educators and Parents: Guidance for School Outdoor Activities
For Healthcare Providers: Oregon Health Authority's healthcare provider guidance
For Employers: contact Oregon OSHA for employer resources
Recommendations for Indoor Air Filtration
Frequently Asked Questions: Oregon Health Authority Wildfire Smoke and Your Health