Which Mask Protects You Best From Wildfire Smoke?

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Woman covering her face from wildfire smoke
EugeneEdge / Shutterstock.com

The smoke from wildfires that has descended upon the U.S. Northeast is not the first example of such pollution in 2023 — and it is unlikely to be the last.

Wildfire smoke can be hazardous for those who have specific health conditions, and it really isn’t good for anyone.

Wearing a mask is one way to protect yourself against this smoke. But which type of mask is best?

Recently, MedPage Today contacted a pair of experts to get their take: Dr. Sameer Khanijo, a lung disease specialist with Northwell Health in Long Island, New York; and Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering in Baltimore.

The two experts agreed that wearing a well-fitted N95 or KN95 respirator is likely to give you the best protection from the major hazard in wildfire smoke, particulate matter that is 2.5 microns in size, also known as PM2.5.

Such particulate matter can get into your lungs — and from there, into the rest of the body.

Khanijo told MedPage Today that the type of cloth mask or surgical mask that many of us wore during the pandemic won’t do much to keep you safe from wildfire smoke.

However, earlier this week, Dr. James McDonald, New York’s acting commissioner of health, said during a press briefing that “any mask you do have is better than not wearing one.”

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