PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – It’s been a cool and rainy spring, but health experts say they’re still concerned about wildfires this summer and the smoke that comes along with them. 

The Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon State University held a public webinar Monday to inform the public on how they can best protect themselves from harmful smoke particles and to answer people’s questions. 

During the webinar, Jamie Bash, a public information analyst for Oregon Health Authority, said there are steps people can take during and before a wildfire to protect themselves. 

The people most at risk of the impacts of wildfire smoke are people with pre-existing heart and lung diseases, the elderly and infants. 

Before air quality significantly worsens from a wildfire, OHA recommends people stock up on food, water and any medications they need, to avoid leaving their homes more than necessary. They should also purchase an N95 or P100 mask to wear to filter out fine particulate matter in the air. 

People can also plan ahead and purchase or make a HEPA air cleaner. 

Both OHA and Oregon DEQ recommend people sign up for air quality advisory notifications through their emails or text message on the Oregon DEQ’s website

Health officials say another thing people can do to protect themselves against the effects of wildfire smoke is to start eating healthy now. 

“There’s new and emerging evidence starting to suggest that diets that are really rich in fiber and fruits and vegetables, Omega fatty 3 acids that you can get from things like fish can help reduce the effects of air pollution, and so it helps the body recover more quickly,”  Bash said. 

When a wildfire is burning and bringing smoke to local communities, health officials say to follow local public safety, local or tribal health authority, DEQ and OHA for recommendations. 

People should use their air filters and take care of themselves, their pets and neighbors if possible. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has resources on how to protect animals from wildfire smoke

If conditions are serious enough to trigger medical reactions in certain people, the Oregon Health Authority said people should consider voluntarily evacuating their homes. Bash reminded people in the webinar that they don’t need to be told to evacuate if smoke conditions are irritating them. 

“Now you say, ‘Evacuation? That’s what we do when a fire is coming.’ Well, we actually recommend under certain circumstances, usually, when we get to the higher end of the air quality index where folks are really affected, we’ll often tell people, ‘Hey, if it’s smoky in your area and you’re struggling, consider leaving,’” Bush said.  

Health officials also reminded people to make sure their wells don’t become contaminated from wildfire smoke and to wash any garden produce that’s been outside in smoky air before eating it. 

Bush said OHA’s recommendations aren’t just for people at high risk of being impacted by wildfire smoke. Anyone who experiences slight irritation with wildfires should consider taking the agency’s advice before and during a wildfire. 

For more information on Oregon air quality and tips to protect yourself from wildfire smoke, visit the Oregon Health Authority’s website, the Oregon Wildfire Response & Recovery website, or the Oregon Smoke Blog, which is operated by Oregon DEQ.