Public Health and Wildfires

Public Health and Wildfires

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Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke

Prolonged exposure to wildfire smoke can be harmful to people of all ages! The EPA has been studying the effects of wildfire smoke on Public Health since the early 2000s. Depending on the Air Quality Index, smoke can eventually damage your body's ability to remove large particles and excess phlegm from your lungs and airway. Small particles (PM 2.5) pose the greatest risk, because they can get deep into your lungs, and even into your bloodstream. Local air quality can be seen at or at


Symptoms of smoke exposure usually include irritation of eyes, nose, and throat or breathing discomfort, even in otherwise healthy people. More severe symptoms may include chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing. Anyone experiencing symptoms or with a known or suspected medical condition that could be worsened by smoke should contact their healthcare provider for further advice or call 911 if warranted. Most healthy adults and children will recover quickly from smoke exposure and will not experience long term health consequences. However, some parts of the public may be more susceptible to short and long term health effects. Younger children (<12 yrs), older adults (>65 yrs), pregnant women and those with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, COPD, and high blood pressure may be more susceptible.

How Can I Reduce the Effects of Wildfire Smoke?

  1. The first thing to be aware of is the Air Quality Index for your location. Eagle County has worked to install Purple Air sensors around the county. Check your local air quality and if it is moving into a danger zone, take appropriate steps
  2. Protect yourself when the air quality is poor. 
    1. Stay Indoors as much as possible. 
    2. Avoid Strenuous exercise - particularly outdoors
    3. Create a Clean Air Space at home using Merv-13 rated air filters and/or portable HEPA rated air cleaners. 
    4. Utilize public buildings with central air systems if you do not have a clean air space at home. Libraries, community centers and recreation centers can all be good options for cleaner air spaces.
  3. Use an Air Cleaner / Air Purifier to Create a clean air space in your home
    1. DIY Air Cleaners are easy and inexpensive to build. Research has shown that they can be effective at removing the small particles that can impact your health
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