American Lung Association urges residents throughout California to protect their lungs during continued, devastating wildfires

By The American Lung Association

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As fires continue to rage across California, the American Lung Association reminds those in, or within several hundred miles of affected areas, to follow all advice and directives given by local authorities and to follow these important tips on how best to protect families’ lungs throughout this dangerous and difficult period. Further tips and valuable information can be found at Lung.org/wildfires.

• Create an asthma or COPD Travel Pack, in case of evacuation. To ensure you have all medicines and instructions you need in one easily accessible place, create a Travel Pack that includes:
– Copies of your Asthma Action Plan or COPD Action Plan
– An extra written prescription in case medication is lost or destroyed
– Insurance card and healthcare provider contact information
– Both quick-relief and controller medications (make sure there is enough to get you through your stay, and extra in case you get held over unexpectedly)
– A spacer
– A Peak Flow Meter, if prescribed by your healthcare provider

• Be Prepared to Stay Indoors. During a wildfire, people living close to the fire-stricken areas, or even miles away from affected areas, should remain indoors and avoid breathing smoke, ashes and other pollution in the area. Keep doors, windows and fireplace dampers shut and use air conditioners on recirculation mode only. Air cleaning devices with HEPA filters also can provide added protection from soot and smoke.

• Protect the Air in Your Home. Scientific research shows that using a high efficiency particulate air purifier to clean the air in your home can help protect your health during a wildfire. Consider using an air purifier that has a HEPA filter to capture harmful particles in your home and circulate air around the whole room to help clear the air in your home from smoke. As poor air quality from such widespread fires can last for days, weeks and even months after the initial event, the American Lung Association, in partnership with Dyson, will donate air purifiers to communities in need to help protect lungs throughout the aftermath.

• Don’t Depend on a Dust Mask. Ordinary dust masks will not help. Masks with a HEPA filter or an N-95 will filter out the damaging fine particles in wildfire smoke but ensure that they fit your face (masks may not fit children). Consult with your doctor before using a mask, especially if you have lung disease, as it may be difficult to use.

• Know When to Seek Medical Attention. If you experience wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty taking a full breath, chest heaviness, lightheadedness and dizziness or lung disease symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare provider.

• Ask for Help. The American Lung Association’s Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists and is a free resource to answer any questions about the lungs, lung disease and lung health, including how to protect your lungs during wildfires.

“Wildfires can create conditions that put even healthy individuals at risk,” said Albert Rizzo, M.D., American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer. “During times of intense smoke, people face an increased risk of adverse health effects ranging from coughing and wheezing to more serious illness, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, worsening of asthma symptoms and premature death. This is especially concerning for older adults and children as they are most susceptible to smoke.”

More information on how wildfire smoke affects lung health is available at Lung.org/wildfires.