WIldfire smoke is not something I have ever dealt with. As I type, In Northern Ontario and Quebec forest fires are raging and, for the first time, we are dealing with the far out as far away as Toronto. I have never, in my 40 years here, experienced anything like this. Heat warnings? Sure, but air quality warnings due to excessive smoke? Now we are told only winter snow will end this emergency situation.

Unlike my friends out west, we are not prepared for this. I thought I would do some digging and figure out how we can protect ourselves from what looks like a summer full of smoke inhalation.

wildfire smoke
image by Joanne Francis/Unsplash

Guide to Dealing with Smoke from Forest Fires

The emergence of forest fires can cause widespread disruption, not just by the fire itself but also through the hazardous smoke it produces. Here’s a concise guide on how to deal with forest fire smoke exposure.

Stay Informed

Forest fire smoke contains a mixture of gases and fine particles that can harm your health. Stay updated on local news for any warnings or advisories related to air quality. You can also check your local weather website to monitor the Air Quality Index (AQI) in your area.

Stay Indoors

Whenever possible, stay indoors to minimize exposure to smoke. Closing all windows and doors can help prevent smoky air from infiltrating your home. Portable air cleaners can help filter indoor air, and using air conditioners on the recirculation setting can also improve indoor air quality. Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution, such as burning candles, smoking, vacuuming, or cooking on gas stoves. A DYI air cleaner using a box fan works great and is less expensive.

Wear Protective Gear

If you must go outside, wear a mask designed to filter out particulate matter, such as an N95 respirator. Do not wear a cloth or simple surgical mask as they won’t filter out the smoke efficiently. If you stopped masking – and you should still mask indoors as covid is not gone- haul them back out. Check my guide to good quality respirator styles.

Take Care of Health Conditions

If you have a pre-existing health condition such as asthma, heart disease, or other respiratory problems, ensure you have an adequate supply of medication. It’s essential to manage these conditions effectively since smoke can exacerbate symptoms. Seek medical attention if your symptoms worsen.

Plan for Pets and Vulnerable People

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and pets are more susceptible to smoke’s harmful effects. Keep them indoors, maintain a clean indoor environment, and monitor them for symptoms like difficulty breathing or fatigue.

Stay Hydrated and Maintain a Healthy Diet

Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, can help your body cope with the irritants from smoke. Consuming a healthy diet also supports overall health and resilience.

Remember, the key to dealing with smoke from forest fires effectively is preparedness and vigilance. Stay informed, follow local advisories, and prioritize your health and safety.

Seek Medical Help

If you experience difficulty breathing, persistent coughing, chest pain, or other severe symptoms, seek medical help immediately.