Canada wildfires: Which masks protect you best from smoke?
HomeHome > Blog > Canada wildfires: Which masks protect you best from smoke?

Canada wildfires: Which masks protect you best from smoke?

Nov 17, 2023

June 8, 2023 / 11:15 AM / CBS Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- None of us are strangers to masks these days and now, health officials are recommending we wear them until the air quality improves.

You might have bags of face masks in every variety leftover from the pandemic, but doctors say N95 and KN95 masks offer the best protection against the smoke in the air.

It's best to stay indoors, but if you have to spend time outside, a well-fitted N95 mask is the way to go.

RELATED READING: Pets and air quality: Dogs, cats with pre-existing conditions could be at higher risk, vet says

"You really want that finer quality mask that's going to block more because you just don't want all those particles sitting in your lungs and having to spend the rest of your day coughing them up," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said.

According to medical experts, surgical or cloth masks are better than nothing, but they're not as good at filtering out these specific particles currently in the air.

"We all say I'm tired of masks and I understand, but for these next few days, just play it safe, you don't know what you're breathing in but your lungs will tell you and your eyes may tell you too because they may get pretty irritated," Dr. Rob Danoff, with Jefferson Health, said.

RELATED READING: What does "Code Red" air quality mean? Health effects of wildfire smoke and how to protect yourself

Danoff also suggested using an air filter machine if you have one. It can be hard to keep all of these hazardous particles out of our homes and workplaces so if you can get the filter going, it adds another layer of protection.

Dr. Eric Sztejman, a pulmonologist with Virtua Health, said the network is seeing increased calls for chest tightness and respiratory distress.

He reinforced the guidance to remain indoors when there is thick smoke outside.

"The more exposure you have to that thick smoke could cause problems with your lungs," he said. You can watch the full interview with him in the video above.

The Philadelphia Health Department is offering residents free KN-95 masks. The masks can be picked up at the following resource hubs:

In a news conference on wildfire smoke, NJ Transit riders can receive a free mask from a customer service representative at the following train stations:

CBS News Philadelphia's Liz Crawford reported on this story.

First published on June 8, 2023 / 5:00 AM

© 2023 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

RELATED READING: RELATED READING: Where can I get a free mask? Philadelphia Health Department NJ Transit CBS News Philadelphia's Liz Crawford reported on this story.