Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. If you must stay in the area, decrease your outdoor activity and stay indoors as much as possible. This is especially important for children, older adults, smokers and those with heart disease, asthma, or other lung diseases. If you breathe smoke and you have symptoms associated with any pre-existing medical conditions, contact your health care provider immediately. In addition to your physical health, smoke from wildfires can reduce visibility, creating other safety hazards.
Wildfire smoke can affect your health
The Minnesota Department of Health recommends people in areas affected by smoke from wildfires decrease their outdoor activity and stay indoors as much as possible. This is especially important for children, older adults, smokers and those with heart disease, asthma, or other lung diseases.
Wildfire smoke can:
- Irritate eyes, sinuses and throat
- Cause coughing, headaches, or a runny nose
- Cause chest pains, shortness of breath or fatigue
When particulate levels are high enough, even healthy people can experience symptoms.
Air Quality Index
Meteorologists at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) report daily and forecasted air conditions throughout the state. Forecasts are important to help Minnesotans who are sensitive to air pollution plan ahead to protect their health.
Our air quality is divided into six categories:
- Good: 0-50
- Moderate: 51-100
- Unhealthy for sensitive groups: 101-150
- Unhealthy: 151-200
- Very unhealthy: 201-300
Sign up to get alerts and forecasts via email: Air Quality Notifications (AirNow)
For the current air quality: Current Air Quality (MPCA)
Limit your exposure to wildfire smoke.
- Pay attention to the Air Quality Index (AQI) and media reports
- Limit time spent outdoors
- If you have to spend time outdoors, consider using a close fitting respirator that is rated N95 or P-100
- Keep doors and windows closed
- Run air conditioning in recirculating mode only
- Keep fresh air intakes closed
- Install and maintain a clean furnace filter
- Clean surfaces using wet wiping methods or a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum
Do not compound indoor air quality issues during wildfires
Limit indoor activities that can increase indoor air pollution, such as:
- Frying and broiling
- Burning candles and incense
- Using fireplaces or gas stoves
Some air cleaners can help clean the indoor air. Do not use ozone generating air cleaners.
Contact your physician
If you are susceptible to wildfire smoke, contact your physician to discuss your medications and care during wildfires, including respirator use.
In addition to your physical health, smoke from wildfires can reduce visibility, causing auto accidents or creating other safety hazards. Be aware of these types of hazards if you are asked to evacuate the area. Your community may have a place for you to go if the smoke is present for a long time.