A pedestrian in San Francisco tries to protect himself against the unhealthy air quality that has enveloped the area.

Matt Bigler/KCBS Radio

Are You Properly Protected Against The Unhealthy Air?

Susan Leigh Taylor
November 15, 2018 - 12:27 pm

Many people in the Bay Area have started wearing masks, bandanas and scarves to protect themselves from the unhealthy air caused by the fire in Northern California, but how do you know if those precautions are effective? 

Dr. Peter Alperin, an internist in San Francisco, shared some tips to maximize safety. 

First off, wearing the wrong mask is basically the same as not wearing one at all. At a minimum, look for a mask that's marked as N-95 or better, Alperin said. 

"These are masks that are specifically designed to filter out the particulates that are in the air, which is the part of the pollution that is causing people so much trouble" said Alperin. 

But even with those masks, it's not a license to exercise or do other vigorous activity outdoors. 

"In terms of running, all you're doing is increasing the air flow into your lungs, putting an increase demand on your cardiovascular system, so that is certainly not to be recommended," said Alperin. 

Make sure that the mask fits snugly, forming a seal around your nose and mouth. Position the straps so that one is over the back of your head while the second is lower, almost near your neck. 

Adult-sized masks should not be used on children.