Can you stay safe from the fires of wildfires even from encountering masks that help protect against COVID-19?

Can you stay safe from the fires of wildfires even from encountering masks that help protect against COVID-19? (Photo: Alan J. Shaben via Getty Image / Los Angeles Times)

COVID-19 cases and hospitals continue to increase in many states across the country, with some Americans facing an additional challenge: Smoke from wild animals that spread to forests in the West Coast.

According to the Red Cross, over the past few weeks, wildfires have destroyed parts of California, Oregon and Washington, with more than 5 million acres of fire, prompting thousands to evacuate their homes and form the East Coast. Have caused poor air quality in the East Coast. Public health officials have advised people to stay indoors, although doing so has not prevented fumes and causing respiratory problems inside some homes.

Several states have implemented mask requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But can the same face masks also help protect people from the smoke of forest fires? It depends on the type of mask.

“We are currently battling two epidemics – a viral epidemic and a wildfire on the west coast,” Dr. Panagis Galiatos is an assistant professor in the division of lung and critical care medicine at Johns. Hopkins School of Medicine tells Yahoo Life. “We definitely want to limit people’s exposure to both.”

With COVID-19, the mask helps in what is called “source control” while slowing the spread of the virus. According to the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “The mask is recommended as a simple inhibitor to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and to other people when the person coughs or sneezes while wearing the mask. is.”

However, in the CDC’s Guidelines on Public Health Strategies for Dealing with Wildfire Smoke During Pandemic, the agency does not recommend relying on cloth masks with filters inserted to protect against wildfire smoke exposure Or not “because they provide protection. Against [wildfire] Particulate air pollutants are highly dependent on the fit of the mask and the characteristics of the filter. ”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, smoke particles are usually very small – “particles in wood smoke” range in size from 0.4 to 0.7 μm in diameter. “For comparison purposes, a human hair is about 60 micrometers [microns] Vyas, ”says the agency. The EPA states that “such small particles can be inhaled into the deepest recesses of the lung and are thought to represent a greater health concern than larger particles.”

According to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s pulmonologist Mayo Clinic, the coronovirus is about 0.12 microns in diameter, telling Yahoo Life that when someone coughs, sneezes, or talks, drops of breath burst. “Viral particles usually contain 5 microns [in diameter] – It is not just the virus ”being expelled.

“The particles that cause lung and airway problems with smoke are too low to be filtered by a cloth mask or surgical mask,” says Parsons. “But on the other hand, they are doing It is effective in terms of hindering the diffusion of COVID because the droplets are very large relative to the particles which cause problems with smoke. ”

For those who should be outdoors during a wildfire, the EPA recommends wearing a fitted N95 mask or P100 respirator (typically worn for automotive spray-painting or construction), which exposes particles to the smoke of the wildfire. Can help reduce

N95 masks – which also reduce the spread of coronaviruses and are commonly used in health care settings – are “engineered to filter 95 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger,” Parsons explains.

If you plan to purchase a respirator to reduce wildfire smoke exposure, the EPA recommends obtaining a “Particulate Respirator” that has been tested and approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The respirator must have the word “NIOSH” as well as the word “N95” or “P100” on it. In addition, the agency recommends choosing a respirator that has two straps that go around your head (do not loop around the ear or with a single strap) for a more secure fit.

According to the CDC, “In addition to N95 respirators, masks used to slow the spread of COVID-19 provide protection from harmful air pollutants in wildlife smoke.”

But Galiatsos says that if there is smoke in the air from the wildfire, the best thing you can do is stay indoors. “This is the best way of not coming in contact with the virus,” he said.

“If you’re in an area that has wildfires, there’s really no safe way to stay out for extended periods of time,” says Parsons, who notes that exposure to concentrations of smoke particles in the air Combined is the length of contact with those particles. “Concentration is so high that there is little contact outside,” he says.

for Latest Coronavirus news and updates, Follow along According to experts, people over 60 and immunocompromised are the most at risk. If you have any questions, please reference CDC’s And Who is it Resource guide.

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