Southeastern Idaho Public Health

Wildfire Smoke

Did you know harmful particles from wildfire smoke can travel hundreds of miles from its source? Local and regional wildfires can create serious health risks, so it’s important to understand your exposures, protect yourself, and be informed.

Know your risk.

Wildfire smoke contains a mixture of gases, chemicals, and fine particles from burning wood and other materials. The most dangerous pollutant in wildfire smoke is fine particulate matter because it is small enough to travel into the lungs and bloodstream.

The following groups are considered to be at a higher risk from smoke exposure.

  • People with heart or lung conditions, such as asthma, COPD, or cardiovascular disease.
  • Older adults
  • Infants and children
  • Pregnant women

If you are especially sensitive to wildfire smoke, follow your doctor’s recommendations and take extra steps to protect yourself. If you have asthma, keep an asthma management plan and stay up to date on your medications.

Even if you are not on this list, you should still avoid exposure to wildfire smoke. During smoke events, everyone may experience burning or itching eyes, sore throat, nose irritation, and headaches. Smoke exposure may also have long term effects, especially for lung health.

Protect yourself.

Here are some ways you can reduce your exposure to smoke and stay healthy during wildfire season:

  • Avoid strenuous outdoor exercise
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Do not add to indoor or outdoor pollution. Limit driving and avoid burning anything. If you do plan on burning, check DEQ’s website for restrictions in your area.
  • If you are advised to stay indoors, keep the air in your home as clean as possible.
    • Close all doors and windows.
    • Keep your home and car air conditioners on the circulating function so it is not bringing in outside air.
    • If there are especially sensitive groups in your house, you may want to buy a HEPA filter. These filters may reduce levels of PM2.5 and indoor allergens.
    • Avoid adding to indoor air pollution. Candles, fireplaces, gas stoves, and harsh cleaning products can worsen air quality. Vacuuming may also worsen indoor air quality by stirring up particles that are stuck on the floor.

Wildfire Smoke Links & Downloads

  Overview of air quality levels and fire events in Idaho and across the U.S.
  State-by-state fire incident reports
  DEQ’s current air quality reports for its monitoring stations in Idaho
  Useful tool for estimating air quality when monitors are not available in your area
  Sign up to receive emergency alerts and severe weather warnings
  Guide for school teachers and administrators on holding outdoor activities during wildfire events