COLORADO SPRINGS — With the wildfire smoke from fires in Arizona lingering in our air, it is important to take steps to protect yourself and the vulnerable members of your family from any unnecessary risk.

The Pipeline Fire is burning in the Coconino National Forest north of Phoenix, Arizona, and the resulting haze was obvious in our air on Monday. According to research conducted by North Carolina State University, the rising heat of a wildfire plume takes with it the fine suspended particles and gases from the smoke. In the jet stream, the pollutants can travel thousands of miles, resulting in air pollutants several states away from a fire event.

Smoke is known to irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, and it can make it hard to breathe, causing coughing or wheezing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says children, pregnant women, and people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart disease, need to be especially careful about breathing wildfire smoke.

The CDC has provided tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones, when smoke is heavy in the air:

Keep smoke outside.

  • Choose a room you can close off from outside air.
  • Set up a portable air cleaner or a filter to keep the air in the room clean even when it’s smoky in the rest of the building and outdoors. If you use a do-it-yourself box fan filtration unit, never leave it unattended.

Reduce your smoke exposure by wearing a respirator.

  • A respirator is a mask that fits tightly to your face to filter out smoke before you breathe it in.
  • You must wear the right respirator and wear it correctlyRespirators are not made to fit children.
  • If you have heart or lung disease, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to wear a respirator.
  • Avoid using candles, gas, propane, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, or aerosol sprays and don’t fry or broil meat, smoke tobacco products, or vacuum.
  • If you have a central air conditioning system, use high efficiency filters to capture fine particles from smoke. If your system has a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode or close the outdoor intake damper.

Pets and other animals can be affected by wildfire smoke too.

Keep track of fires near you so you can be ready.

  • AirNow’s “Fires: Current Conditions” page has a map of fires throughout North America.
  • NOAA’s “Fire weather outlook” page maps fire watches and warnings.
  • Listen to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for emergency alerts.

Pay attention to any health symptoms if you have asthmaCOPDheart disease, or are pregnant. Get medical help if you need it.

To check the air quality specific to your area before you head outside, go to AirNow.gov and search your zip code.