Lung Association Offers Tips to Protect Alaska Families During and After Wildfires

With more than 100 wildfires still burning across Alaska along warm, dry temperatures returning soon, the American Lung Association encourages Alaska residents, particularly in wildfire-prone areas, to be prepared and to take steps to protect themselves and their families from the health harms presented by wildfires.

Breathing wildfire smoke can be extremely harmful to the lungs and is unhealthy for everyone to breathe. However, this smoke is especially dangerous for children, older adults, those who may be pregnant as well as people with lung disease like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Protecting lung health should be an important part of a wildfire emergency plan. General recommendations from the Lung Association include the following:

•    Stay indoors: People living close to the fire-stricken areas should follow guidance from local authorities, and remain indoors to reduce breathing smoke, ashes and other pollution in the area if instructed to do so.

•    Monitor your air quality forecast: Keeping track of the current air quality information can help you know when to take steps to protect yourself from unhealthy levels of air pollution from wildfires and other sources. Media outlets report on poor local air quality conditions when present, or you can go to EPA’s Air Now website. 

•    Take precautions for kids: Extra precautions should be taken for children and teens, who are more susceptible to smoke. Their lungs are still developing, and they breathe in more air (and consequently more pollution) for their size than adults. 

•    Protect the air in your home: Keep doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and air cleaners. For those with HVAC systems, use the recirculation setting to keep from pulling outside air into the room. Air cleaning devices that have HEPA filters can provide added protection from the soot and smoke. Place damp towels under the doors and other places where the outside air may leak in. You can also watch this video on how to create a clean room in your house.

•    Don't exercise outside: If you live close to or in an area surrounding wildfires, don't exercise outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or notice eye or throat irritation.

•    Don't count on a dust mask: Ordinary dust masks, designed to filter out large particles, and cloth facial coverings will not help. They still allow the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Special, more expensive dust masks with an N-95 or N-100 filter will filter out the damaging fine particles, but may not fit properly, are not made for children or adults with facial hair and are difficult for people with lung disease to use. 

•    Prepare to evacuate if directed: Listen to your local or state officials and act when ordered to protect yourself and your family. In advance, prepare any medications, medical devices, emergency contact information and a list of prescriptions to take with you.

•    Ask for help: The American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists and is a free resource to answer any questions about the lungs, lung disease and lung health, including how to protect yourself during wildfires.

For additional information about wildfires and lung health, visit Lung.org/wildfires.

For more information, contact:

Alaska Media Contact

[email protected]

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