Masks and Wildfire Smoke

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 


Preguntas Frequentes ​

There is a lot of smoke in the air. Is it bad for me? 

Wildfire smoke can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. It can make you cough and wheeze, and can make it hard to breathe for some people. If you have asthma or another lung disease, or heart disease, inhaling wildfire smoke can be especially bad for you. 

What can I do to protect myself from the smoke? 

The best way to protect yourself from the wildfire smoke is to stay inside as much as you can and to not exercise or do other activities that make you breathe deeply.  

If you cannot stay inside or away from smoke, a special mask called a particulate respirator might help protect your lungs. Do not use bandanas (wet or dry); paper, surgical, or dust masks; or tissues held over the mouth and nose. These will not protect your lungs from wildfire smoke. Only use a respirator that is labeled NIOSH approved N95, N100, or P100. 

Do I need a respirator? 

If you are able to stay inside and away from smoke, that is your best way to stay safe. If you must be outside, a respirator mask will filter out some parts of smoke that are bad for you. However, to provide the best protection it should seal tightly to your face so the outside air won’t leak inside. If you need to be outdoors when the air quality is bad, you may decide to wear a respirator.  If you have a pre-existing health condition, you may want to speak to your healthcare provider to make sure that it is okay to wear a respirator. Read Wildfire Smoke Factsheet to Protect Your Lungs from WIldfire Amoke or Ash for more information. 

What should I know about using a respirator? 

  • It is impossible to get a good fit (a “seal”) if you have facial hair like a beard or mustache. Without a good fit, the respirator will not protect you much and might not protect you at all. 
  • There are no FDA-approved respirators that come in sizes that fit young children.
  • Using a respirator can make it more difficult to breathe. Respirators with valves on the front make it easier to exhale.
  • If you feel dizzy or nauseated when you wear a respirator, go to a less smoky area, take off your respirator and get medical help. 

Where do I get a respirator? 

Respirators are sold at many hardware, home repair stores, and pharmacies. 

What kind of respirator should I use? 

Choose one that has the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it. Respirators have two straps that go around your head. DO NOT choose a mask with only one strap or with straps that just hook over the ears. 

How should I use a respirator? 

  • Place the respirator over your nose and under your chin, with one strap placed below the ears and one strap above. It should seal tightly to your face. 
  • Pinch the metal part of the respirator tightly over the top of your nose. Use both index fingers to pinch the respirator so equal pressure is applied on each side.
  • Throw out your respirator when it gets harder to breathe through, or if the inside gets dirty. 
  • Watch the video in the link below for more details. 

Video available at

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