Self CareSF Bay Area

How to Keep Smokey Air Out of Your House, Car & Lungs

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If you want to know how the air quality is where your are, up to the hour, visit current air quality index for the Bay Area.  Measuring the air quality in the Bay is literally what they do all day:

Monday, 8am conditions:


If you live near the coast, the wind is currently and forecasted to come out of the South West, so the smoke impacts today and tomorrow should be similar to yesterday which is not good, but not nearly as bad as inland. Inland areas will have overall unhealthy air quality with periods in very unhealthy.  And many wildfires remain largely uncontained.  In short the air is terrible all over Northern California.

Basic TIPS for keeping smoke and terrible air out of your house/apartment/car

Keep your home’s doors and windows closed.

Run your home air conditioner, but use the “recirculate” setting.  This system stops taking air from the outside and recycles the air already inside (which stops introducing more smoky air to your home.

Check your home’s walls, windows and doors for potential openings. Repair or replace any doors or windows with major air leak issues; use caulk on walls or weather-proofing tape or sealants on window to cover up smaller openings.

If you have an HVAC make sure the filter is clean, an MERV 13 or greater filter for your HVAC system is best during a smoke event.

Run your car air conditioner, but use the “recirculate” setting.

number 2 is the symbol for resurculate

Close air conditioning vents in your vehicle while driving through a particularly smokey area.

Use an air purifier in your house: (non -ozone kinds) non-ozone producing air purifier (HEPA) are what is recommended by the experts.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District and San Francisco Department of Public Health have previously said it’s best to seek out places with fresh air and filtered air systems, such as indoor malls, libraries, community centers, civic centers and local government buildings.

But during COVID that is a lot more complicated.

MASKS & smokey air

There’s no substitute for clean air, and masks can only do so much: With an N95 mask, the 95 number means it blocks 95 percent of particulate matter.  An N97 blocks 97 percent, and an N100 mask blocks 100 percent (really 99.9997).

If you see a P instead of an N, like a P100 mask, that means the mask also blocks lead and asbestos. But an N100 and P100 should work equally well for soot.

No matter the rating, a mask won’t be effective if worn improperly. Just having facial hair can kill a mask’s efficacy, as particulate matter will get past facial hair. Masks should not be reused, and more notably, no such masks are available for children. An N95 mask will not properly fit a child, and therefore be ineffective.

Anyway there’s a pandemic so you’re wearing your mask outside anyway.

How to protect your eyes from smoke

  • WEAR GLASSES, NOT CONTACTS: Don’t wear your contact lenses, as they attract airborne particles from wildfire smoke.
  • PROTECT YOUR EYES OUTDOORS: If you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, wear wrap-around goggles to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke. Don’t have wrap-around goggles? Prescription eyeglasses or sunglasses can help block eye irritants.
  • RINSE OUT YOUR EYES: Wash away eye irritants with over-the-counter saline rinse or artificial tears. If you’re using artificial tears more than four times a day, stick with the preservative-free variety. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends storing artificial tears in your refrigerator to add eye-cooling relief.
  • TRY EYE DROPS FOR RELIEF: If itchy eyes are bugging you, try over-the-counter, itch-alleviating antihistamine eye drops.
  • APPLY A COMPRESS: Place a cold compress to your closed eyes to help alleviate itching.
  • SEE AN EYE DOCTOR: If your symptoms don’t improve, make an appointment with an eye care provider.


More info on air quality here:


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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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