As dozens of wildfires continue to rage in the Western United States, smoke from the blazes has wafted over much of the country, creating hazy skies and prompting air-quality warnings as far east as D.C., New York and North Carolina.

“This is peak fire season,” said Grant Lipman, a clinical professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University and founder of the GOES Health app. The smoke from these “horrendous fires” can influence people’s health locally, regionally and nationally, he added. “It gets into the eyes, the nose, the mouth — and it affects different people in different ways.”

Here’s what you need to know about the health risks of inhaling wildfire smoke and how to stay safe on poor-air-quality days.

What to know

  • What are the health risks and symptoms of smoke exposure?
  • Who is more vulnerable to smoke exposure?
  • When should I be concerned about air quality?
  • Will a mask help protect me against smoke and poor air quality?
  • When should I wear a mask, and how do I take care of it?
  • What else can I do to protect myself?