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Seattle air among world's worst: How to check your town's air quality and protect yourself from wildfire smoke

Air quality ranged from unhealthy to very unhealthy in western Washington on Tuesday, according to AirNow.

SEATTLE — Several West Coast cities and towns had some of the world’s worst air quality Wednesday morning. 

According to AirNow.gov, Seattle had an air quality index (AQI) of 225, considered "very unhealthy," as of 5 a.m. Wednesday.

According to IQair.com, as of 5 a.m. Wednesday, Portland had the worst air quality in the world, followed by Seattle and Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Public health officials warned residents to stay indoors with the windows shut, to set air conditioners to run on recirculated air instead of fresh, and to use air purifiers if they had them. 

Check the air quality index and forecast for your city on AirNow, which collects air quality information from dozens of agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

The air quality index (AQI) is a measure of how healthy the air is with higher values indicating more air pollution.

Unhealthy air quality means some members of general public may experience health effects, and people in sensitive groups may see more serious side effects.

Wildfire smoke is expected to linger in the Pacific Northwest throughout the week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) says children, people over 65 years old, and those with existing health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or history of stroke are most affected by air pollution.

DOH recommends these tips to take care of yourself and your family when air quality is poor due to wildfire smoke:

  • Stay indoors and keep indoor air as clean as possible. Due to COVID-19, it may not be safe to seek clean air in a public place.
  • Keep your home’s windows and doors closed when the outside air is smoky. Only open windows once the air quality has improved. Keep curtains drawn and blinds down to prevent it from getting too hot.
  • If you run an air conditioner, set it to re-circulate and close the fresh air intake.
  • Don’t add to air pollution by avoiding using candles, fireplaces or gas stoves, and don’t smoke indoors.
  • Don’t vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA air filter, because it stirs up particles already inside the house.
  • Create a DIY air filter using a box fan and a filter with a MERV 13 rating to improve air quality inside your home.
  • Avoid physical exertion outside.
  • Avoid driving, but if you must drive, keep the windows rolled up and turn on the air conditioner.

RELATED: This DIY air filter for wildfire smoke is less than $20