How to protect yourself from wildfire smoke and poor air quality

For the next few days if you’re in parts of the Midwest or most of the East, even going outside for a short walk while in this smoky haze can have some impact on your health.

Wildfire smoke can cause symptoms like sneezing and watery or burning eyes, phlegm or a wheezing cough. It can make breathing difficult or aggravate a person’s asthma. For certain cardiovascular patients, it can lead to stroke or heart attack.

With dangerous air quality, ER visits and hospitalizations tend to go up.

“We expect more and more people to get exposed to this, and that it will be a lot more people presenting to the hospital in need for respiratory treatment, having respiratory difficulty. Headaches, feeling lightheaded, all the things that would be expected from exposure,” said Dr. Frederick Davis, associate chair of the emergency department at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

The issue is the very fine particulate matter that gets inhaled — it’s smaller than a strand of hair. Breathing that in, even in small amounts, should be avoided, according to experts.

“The key message really is to really limit your time outdoors to the extent possible, to stay indoors as much as possible. Protect the air in your car in your home. Really try to keep the smoke from coming in,” William Barrett with the American Lung Association said.

The elderly, those with underlying health issues, and children and most at risk. Above all, for anyone who can, check your air quality — most weather apps on your phone include it. Anything above a score of 100 is reason to take precautions. That can include running an air filter inside your home.

If you’re driving, make sure your car is circulating the air.

If you are outside, any mask is better than nothing to protect from inhaling smoke. Doctors say consider a KN95 mask or a respirator from a local hardware store, because you want something snug fitting.