It's Hot and Smokey but I Don't Have Air Conditioning. What Can I Do?

The wet and dry cycles in the western United States are increasing the potential for wildfires in or near wilderness and even urban regions, especially during the summer months. The smoke generated by forest fires is a combination of fine particles and gases from burning trees and other organic materials. Wildfire smoke can hurt your eyes, worsen your lung or chronic heart diseases and irritate your respiratory system.

In the coastal states, a mild climate means many households can make do without air conditioning by leaving the windows open and using fans during the summer months. But how do you safeguard your family from wildfire smoke if it's too hot to close the windows, but you don't have air conditioning? We’ve got some tips for protecting yourself from wildfire smoke with no conditioner.

Wear your COVID Mask, If It's the Right Type

During the hours when it's just too hot to keep the windows and doors closed, we highly recommend utilizing a pm2.5 mask, which you may have already in the house. If not, maintain a supply, and practice with your kids in advance so they know what's up when you need to strap them on. Learn more about how pm2.5 masks can protect from the health impact of wildfire smoke pollution.

Timing is everything

Air quality varies not only day by day, but even hour by hour. Monitor the Air Quality Index and take advantage of periods of cleaner air by opening the windows and doors when you can, especially in the morning when air quality tends to be better.

Don't add to the indoor air pollution

Don’t burn candles, or use gas, wood burning stoves, propane, aerosol sprays or fireplaces. Don’t boil or fry meat, vacuum or smoke tobacco products. All of those can provide an unwelcome boost to indoor air pollution.

Stay on the ground level, away from the fireplace

During times when you really shouldn't be opening the windows, pick a room with no fireplace and as few doors and windows as possible, like the family room or basement (if you have one). You can also employ a portable air cleaner in that room to maintain good indoor air quality in the area where you and your kids are spending the most time.

Stock sufficient medication and food

Just because you can't see wildfire smoke (usually) doesn't mean it's safe to go outside. Prepare for incidents of poor air quality like you would prepare for a blizzard. Maintain sufficient stockpiles of food and essential medications to survive for a few days indoors. If you must go out, avoid the smokiest periods of the day, or wear a pm2.5 mask if it's just too hot to stay inside. This is the only type of mask that will filter our the most harmful toxic materials found in wildfire smoke.

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Being stuck in a your home without air conditioning may feel even stuffier than going outside, but unless the heat becomes dangerous, a little bit of discomfort is preferable to potential long term respiratory damage. And whether or not you have an air conditioner, stay alert for wildfire warnings and make a plan to safeguard yourself and your family from the fire as well as the accompanying smoke.