Should you use AC with smoke outside? How to keep indoor air clean

An air purifier, such as one that uses a HEPA filter, is the best way to improve the quality of indoor air – but if you’re staying indoors to avoid fire smoke and don’t have access to an air filter, there are a few other things you can do to keep the air in the home as clean as possible.

The next best tool after an air purifier is an air conditioner, said Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonary and critical care medicine physician at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Keep the windows closed and make sure the air conditioner is set to recirculate air, said Dr. Samantha Green, a family physician at Unity Health Toronto. You may want to replace the air filter in your central air conditioner. Wirecutter, a New York Times company, has a guide on air filters and purifiers that can help protect against fire smoke, and a guide on how to make a DIY air purifier.

If you don’t have air conditioning, portable fans and ceiling fans can help. Keep fans close to where you are inside – and if you happen to have multiple fans, turn them all on. “Anything that can help circulate the air is better than nothing,” Dr. Galiatsatos said.

You should keep bathroom exhaust fans off as much as possible if they’re bringing in outside air, Dr. Green said. Some cooker hoods over cookers also allow outside air to infiltrate your home (if you’re cooking, you should use the cooker hood, but try to limit how long it’s on).

To further minimize the pollutants in the air, do not burn candles or light fires, and refrain from roasting meat. Smoking indoors is always a bad idea, Dr. Galiatsatos said, but especially when you’re already exposed to fire smoke. “Now is the time to promote lung health,” he said.

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