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EMERGENCY INFORMATION: Wildfire Smoke and Face Masks for Protection in Dangerous Conditions

Surgical and dust masks WILL NOT protect you from the dangers of breathing Wildfire smoke… Choose a mask called a “particulate respirator”.

Wildfire smoke can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It can make you cough and wheeze, and can make it hard to breathe. If you have asthma or another lung disease, or heart disease, inhaling wildfire smoke can be especially harmful. If you cannot leave the smoky area, good ways to protect your lungs from wildfire smoke include staying indoors and reducing physical activity.

Wearing a special mask called a “particulate respirator” can also help protect your lungs from wildfire smoke  Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 provide some protection – they filter ‐ out fine particles but not hazardous gases (such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and acrolein). This type of mask can be found at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies and online. Your local health agency may also have these masks.

Choose an N95 or N100 mask that has two straps that go around your head. Don’t choose a one ‐ strap paper dust mask or a surgical mask that hooks around your ears – these don’t protect against the fine particles in smoke. Choose a size that fits over your nose and head and under your chin. It should seal tightly to your face. Please note that these masks don’t come in sizes that fit young children and will not seal well. They also will not seal well on people with beards.

Don’t use bandanas or towels (wet or try) or tissue held over the mouth and nose. These may relieve dryness but they won’t protect your lungs. Using a respirator mask can make it harder to breathe, which may make the existing medical conditions worse as it takes extra effort to breath through them and can make it uncomfortable to use them for very long.

Throw away your mask when breathing through it gets difficult, if it gets damaged or if the inside gets dirty. Use a new mask every day if you can. For more information, search for “wildfire smoke” on www.doh.wa.gov

 

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