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Wildfires in California: How to Get Help and Stay Healthy Amid a Pandemic

No one wants to think about evacuation, but some basic preparation, just in case, is important

Poor air quality from wildfires is another reason to stay sheltered. If you go outside, wear a mask to reduce COVID transmission, but know that it will not fully protect you from prolonged smoke exposure. To reduce the risk of smoke inhalation, its best to stay inside whenever possible.  

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Dr. Malaika Stoll

In addition to limiting smoke exposure, here are five tips for protecting yourself and your family:

  • Be informed. To learn about the air quality around you, these sites are helpful and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
  • Be prepared.  No one wants to think about evacuation, but some basic preparation, just in case, is important. Be sure that if you take medications you have them filled and on hand. Those with asthma may need to use more of their prescribed “rescue” inhalers when the air quality is poor.
  • Get help. If you are having difficulty breathing, or are experiencing other serious symptoms, seek medical attention right away. For those with asthma and certain other conditions, and for older adults and younger children, even brief exposure to smoke can be serious.
  • Access care remotely. If you or a family member needs medical care, most physicians are now seeing patients through video or telephone visits. Call your family physician to learn how to access care conveniently and safely.

Blue Shield members can also get care through Teladoc.

Visit, or download the Blue Shield of California app on your smart phone to sign up for the service. Copays and co-insurance for any Teladoc Medical and Behavioral Health visits will be waived for members enrolled in all of Blue Shield’s fully-insured commercial plans until December 31, 2020, including Individual and Family and all group-sponsored plans that offer Teladoc. The standard use number for Blue Shield of California members to use Teladoc is 1-800-835-2362.

  • Help each other. It is normal to be worried by what is happening around us. Calling friends and family, or pulling together donations for fire-relief efforts, are ways that we can work together to help our community and to reduce stress. Consider the Red Cross or CalFund.

Malaika Stoll, M.D., is senior medical director for Blue Shield of California. She leads a team of medical directors and clinicians who work with local providers to ensure Blue Shield members have access to quality, affordable care.