Air Quality

Smoky Air Tips

What is causing all the smoke?

You've probably noticed that the air has been hazy this summer. Your healthcare providers at VMH have observed the impact of poor air quality on people's health and want to ensure you are well-informed to protect yourself and your loved ones. Here's a helpful Q&A to provide you with essential information:

Why is it so hazy this summer?

The haze you see is smoke from Canadian wildfires. Canada is in the midst of its most severe wildfire season on record, with over 480 active fires. Fire activity will likely continue throughout the summer until snowfall helps extinguish the flames, which means that the quality of Wisconsin’s air may continue to be quite bad depending on wind direction. 

Is smoke dangerous?

Wildfire smoke contains toxic particles (PM2.5) that are small enough to enter the lungs and enter the bloodstream. From there they can enter the brain and other organs and cross the placenta to affect fetuses. Exposure to these particles is linked to several health conditions, including asthma, COPD, lung cancer, premature death, susceptibility to infections, heart attacks, strokes, impaired cognitive functioning, metabolic disorders, and preterm births and low birth weight. Young children, pregnant individuals, adults over 65, and those living with asthma, COPD, and heart disease can be especially sensitive to smoke and may notice acute worsening of their symptoms and long-term health damage and should take special precautions. Even those without these conditions may notice symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and headaches, Long-term exposure can harm anyone’s health, as there is no safe level of particulate exposure for the human body. 

How do I know what the air quality is?

The air quality index (AQI) is a nationwide tool for communicating daily air quality. It uses color-coded categories to tell the public how clean or polluted their local air is and details which groups of people may be affected. You can check the air quality index (AQI) daily at, or visit PurpleAir or IQAir to see additional readings from local air monitors. Even if you can’t see haze, you should still check the AQI daily, as some dangerous air pollutants are not visible to the human eye. Even on days when air quality is listed as moderate, sensitive groups may still experience symptoms because recent studies have found wildfire smoke is more likely to impact respiratory health than other air pollutants.

Tips to help you stay healthy:

  1. Check air quality daily: Stay updated on current conditions to make informed decisions about outdoor activities. A hazy sky indicates smoke particles from fires, it is best to not go outside.

  2. Keep windows and doors closed: Seal your home to prevent outdoor smoke from entering. Adjust indoor activities based on your risk level and medical conditions.

  3. Use air purifiers: Consider using HEPA air purifiers to filter out smoke particles and improve indoor air quality. You can also create a DIY version with a box fan and filter.
  4. Limit indoor pollution sources: Avoid activities like smoking, burning candles/incense, or using gas-powered appliances to prevent further air pollution. Use exhaust fans in the kitchen to expel exhaust air while cooking.

  5. Use masks outdoors: When going outside in smoky conditions, it's important to protect yourself by wearing a mask. Choose masks labeled as N95 or P100 for effective filtration of fine particles. Remember to consider your individual conditions and take necessary precautions to ensure better respiratory protection. See chart for recommendations from the EPA.

    Remember to prioritize your health and consult a healthcare professional if you experience respiratory issues or discomfort during smoky periods.


Submitted by: Dr. Joel Charles, MD 

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