How Does Wildfire Smoke Impact Those With COVID-19?

August 18, 2020

woman in mask during wildfire COVID-19 Denver Health

With several wildfires burning across Colorado, there are new concerns for how those impacted by COVID-19 will handle the smoke filled skies.

In general, when air quality is low, individuals with conditions like asthma and COPD are advised to stay inside until the smoke passes. They are also advised to be aware of when they are feeling exhausted or light headed and to stay hydrated. But very little is known about how the smoke could impact those with COVID-19 or those recovering from the virus.

What we do know is that the lungs are often impacted by COVID-19. Denver Health providers say that those recovering from the virus should take extra precautions.

"We know that many of our patients that have recovered from COVID, even people that have been severe enough to require care in the hospital or ICU like months later are still having symptoms," said Mark Kearns, M.D. a pulmonary critical care physician at Denver Health. "Whether that be ongoing shortness of breath, fatigue — (they) just haven’t been able to return back to their normal state of health."

Dr. Kearns told FOX31 News that it is important for all of us right now, whether we have had COVID-19 or not, to know when there is an ozone action day and take extra steps to stay safe.

COVID-19 Changing Wildfire Tactics for Firefighters

COVID-19 is also changing the way firefighters normally fight a wildfire. Denver Health paramedic Chris Pattinson talked to the Colorado Sun about his special role to keep firefighters on the front lines from getting sick with the virus. Everything from camping to eating to where firefighters gather has changed, and it's Pattinson's job to make sure that practices like social distancing are followed to keep those crucial first responders healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

How to Protect Yourself From Wildfire Smoke During COVID-19

Dr. Kearns recommends several things everyone can do to stay safe from wildfire smoke now and in the future when we are out of this pandemic, including:

  • Wear a mask
  • Spend time outside in the early morning or late evening when it is cooler


Learn more about Denver Health's efforts to keep the community safe from the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at