Smoke From Wildfires Drifts Farther Than You Realize

November 08, 2017

Smoke From Wildfires Drifts Farther Than You Realize

Wildfire smoke often drifts thousands of miles away from the source. Satellites capable of tracking the movement and dispersal of smoke plumes have collected data proving that smoke often drifts at high altitudes. Carried on high moving air currents, wildfire smoke can eventually reach faraway areas of urban development. Once it reaches a densely populated area, the wildfire smoke reacts with other pollutants in the atmosphere. The result is elevated ozone levels far from the source of the smoke.

In urban areas, elevated ozone levels pose major health risks. Breathing air that contains ozone can bring on a string of symptoms, including coughing, nasal congestion, and throat irritation. While these symptoms are bothersome for healthy persons, ozone also has a detrimental, potentially serious effect on individuals suffering from asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema.

Heart Attack Risk and Wildfire Smoke

According to The Journal of the American Heart Association, there is a link between exposure to wildfire smoke particles and acute heart disease. Research reported in The Journal concluded that fine smoke particles, those with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less, produce an increased short-term risk of heart attack. An increase in hospital emergency room visits is also associated with exposure to fine smoke particles produced by wildfire.

One specific study cited in The Journala 6.9 percent increase in heart attacks over a 2-month period due to wildfire smoke exposure in the areas in and around Victoria, Australia. Men specifically were more affected by smoke exposure, although individuals over 65 also appeared to have an increased risk or suffering from cardiac arrest.

Ways to Protect Yourself

The United States has experienced an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires in recent years. Experts predict this trend to continue to rise. Thankfully, there are safety measures you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe should a wildfire occur in your area.


  1. Stay indoors. When wildfire smoke is affecting your area, stay inside as much as possible. Indoors is the safest place to be, especially for small children, the elderly, and  individuals who suffer from heart disease.

  2. Wear a mask. If you must venture outside, protect yourself from airborne particles by wearing a mask. A paper or surgical mask will not be sufficient to protect you from fine smoke particles. To properly protect yourself, you will need a respirator mask with an N95 or N100.

  3. Protect the quality of your indoor air. Dangerous gases and smoke particles produced by a nearby wildfire can accumulate inside of your home rather quickly. To preserve the quality of your indoor air, be sure to keep all windows and doors securely shut. If the temperature requires you to run an air conditioning unit, keep the fresh air intake closed while it is in use. For the highest level of indoor air protection, use a high-performance air purifier like the Austin Air HealthMate Plus. An air purifier will help remove smoke particles of any size that happen to make it into your home. The Austin Air HealthMate Plus will also help remove ozone from your indoor air. This is particularly important if you are located inside an urban area.

  4. Avoid unnecessary activities that will negatively affect indoor air quality. Certain activities can become an additional source of indoor air pollutants. If your home is being affected by wildfire smoke, protecting indoor air quality is a priority. Avoid burning candles, using the fireplace, or even vacuuming (unless your vacuum cleaner is equipped with a true HEPA filter).

Wildfire smoke can pose a serious threat to your health, even when the wildfire is located some distance away. It is important to take the threat seriously and know the steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family from harm.

Air Purifiers for Wildfire Smoke:


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