Expert advice to stay healthy and safe from wildfire smoke

Thick smoke from wildfires burning in Eastern Washington continues to blanket the western part of the state and an air quality alert is in effect for the Puget Sound until 10 am Wednesday.

"We took our puppies out last night and noticed that there was a smoky haze around all the lights and we can smell the campfire type of smoke," said Bellevue resident Skip Clark.

Air quality is forecasted to be unhealthy in Western Washington through tomorrow.

UW Bothell Professor Dan Jaffe is an expert on transport of pollutants and air quality. 

"Last night when we started smelling smoke, we looked over the sensor and it was bright red, almost purple," said Jaffe.

Jaffe says cleaning the air inside your home doesn't have to be costly. You can build your own filtration system for about 40 dollars.

"So I took a 20-inch box fan, which you can buy at any local hardware store and duct-taped a Merv 13 filter on the back. It took about 5 minutes. Make sure you know where the air is flowing. There are arrows on the filter," said Jaffe.

Doctors recommend staying indoors during smoky days, but if you have to be outside, they warn that some masks will not protect you from the smoke.

"Smoke is a particulate matter in the air. It's quite fine and the majority of masks are not made to filter that out. Masks that have the N95 or N100 label are the most efficacious with helping with the smoke," said Dr. Stephen C. Morris with Harborview and UW Medicine.

Dr. Morris says a minor dry cough associated with smoke is common, but if you have shortness of breath, call 911.

"It's important for people to be in contact with their primary care doctor particularly if they have underlying lung disease, but also even healthy people should think about seeking care when they have shortness of breath or uncontrollable cough with the smoke," said Dr. Morris.