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What to do when the smoke starts to get to you

Heavy smoke from wildfires is shown on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, outside of Wenatchee.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Heavy smoke from wildfires is shown on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, outside of Wenatchee.

If you're a longtime Seattleite, this may seem like one of the worst weeks ever for air pollution.

Air quality experts say ... that's probably true. 

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Executive Director Craig Kenworthy says, “We've hit unhealthy for everyone. And that's some of the highest pollution in the summer that we've seen in the past 20 years."

Kenworthy predicts air quality could be better this weekend —  before worsening again next week.

So how do we live with this crappy air? By staying inside. That’s the crappy answer.

Right now we are breathing in tiny particles thrown into the air by burning trees. These particles will eventually float to ground.

Eric Saganic is an air quality forecaster at the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. He says: Close your doors and windows and wait. “We have seen in our own data that the smoke levels are half of what they are outside after a couple of hours.”

While you're inside, resist the urge to vacuum. The state health department says that'll just stir up the particles that already made it to the floor. And with the doors and windows shut, don't do things that reduce indoor air quality. No candles! 

If you have to go outside and you want some protection, a mask can help. The health department says respirator masks found in hardware stores can filter fine particles. Look for the N95, with charcoal, or the stronger N100.

And make that mask snug on your face. Pinch the nose-pincher. No beards! And yes, a tight mask will feel abominable, and you’ll feel like removing it within minutes.

Back inside, consider whether you’re ready to spend on an air purifier. California’s Air Resources Board has a list of purifiers it certifies for safety and low ozone emission. They’re not cheap, but the list is a place to start.