Smoke & Health

No matter where it comes from, smoke can be a health risk. There are two different types of smoke we see locally from fires in our forests: wildfire smoke and prescribed fire smoke. Both can affect our communities and contain small particles that can cause heart and lung problems although they carry different health risks.

What is in Wildfire Smoke?

  • The majority of air pollution contained in wildfire smoke is from fine particles of matter. These are also referred to as PM 2.5. Because they are so small, PM 2.5 can travel deeply into the lungs and be absorbed into the body, causing health problems.

  • Larger particles are also present in smoke. These are called PM10, and can cause irritation. However, PM 10 are trapped in the lungs and can usually be coughed out.

  • Smoke from burning structures – such as homes, cars, and gas stations – contains harmful gases and toxic chemicals as well as fine particles.

  • Prescribed fire also omits PM 2.5 smoke, but is normally much smaller amounts for smaller amounts of time.

Who might be at risk of health problems from smoke?

Smoke can affect everyone. But some people may be more sensitive. This can include:

  • Children under 18

  • Adults 65 and older

  • Infants

  • Pregnant people

  • People with chronic conditions such as asthma, heart or lung disease, or diabetes

  • Outdoor workers

  • People who don’t have health care or stable housing

How can I tell if smoke is affecting me or others?

  • Watery or dry eyes

  • Persistent cough, phlegm, wheeze, scratchy throat or irritated sinuses

  • Headaches

  • Shortness of breath

  • Asthma attack or lung irritation

  • Irregular heartbeat, chest pain

I live in Central Oregon, or am visiting. Why is there smoke in the air?

  • During wildfire season, smoke can come from fires that are in Oregon or farther away (link to Wildfire page).

  • In Spring, Fall or Winter, smoke may come from planned activities like pile burning or prescribed burns. Go to to learn about wildfires and other activities that may lead to smoke in Central Oregon.

What can I do to protect my health when it is smoky?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Find out about air quality in your area:

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(c) 2023 Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project