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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Protect Your Family’s Health in Post-Fire Environment

Oct 19, 2017 12:00AM

By Megan Kaun and Nichole Warwick

The North Bay Fires have dramatically increased the toxicity of our local environment. Children are particularly vulnerable. This document summarizes expert recommendations on reducing exposure and supporting health.  Please consult your health care provider for customized recommendations.


Avoid Contaminated Areas

  • Monitor air quality at
  • Keep children and pets indoors, keep windows closed during poor air quality periods

Protect Body from Exposure

  • Protect Your Lungs with a Mask (N95 or N100)
  • Cover your body fully and change clothes often

Clean Home and Indoor Areas

Vacuum EVERYTHING with a functioning HEPA vacuum

Wipe all hard surfaces with damp microfiber wipes

Pause and repeat above steps, as needed

If odor persists, consult with indoor air quality experts  

Maintain Indoor Air Quality

  • Run multiple HEPA air filters or move single unit from room to room
  • Replace filter in HVAC system
  • Remove shoes and contaminated clothing
  • Bathe and wash hair before going to bed


Relieve Exposure Symptoms

  • Soothe throat with herbal tea, throat spray, lozenges, honey
  • Open breathing passages and calm nerves with diffused essential oils, and herbal teas, tinctures, and syrups

Build Natural Immunity

  • Eat healthy, fresh foods
  • Take probiotic supplements and fermented foods
  • AVOID inflammatory foods like sugar, fried/processed foods, and alcohol
  • Boost immunity with Vitamin C, Zinc, B vitamins, and herbal preparations

Detoxify Gently

  • Drink lots of water, take electrolytes
  • Pooping helps! Use magnesium & acacia fiber
  • Choose high fiber, fresh foods
  • Warm baths with Epsom salts
  • Take safe herbal supplements like activated charcoal, chlorella, etc.

Relax and Be Happy

  • Seek support from family, friends, and mental health care providers
  • Gentle massage, yoga, and good posture promote circulation and endorphins for healing
  • Take time to rest & love yourself!


These house-cleaning techniques will help minimize toxic dust particles resulting from wildfire smoke and ash.


Step 1: Vacuum EVERYTHING with a well-functioning HEPA vacuum

NEVER use a broom or non-HEPA vacuum cleaner.  These stir particles back into the air, worsening air quality.  Some HEPA vacuums do not function properly due to incomplete internal seals.  See the Shark Rotator Professional and Consumer Reports guide (  Vacuum all surfaces (walls, ceilings, floors, etc) that came in contact with the smoke. For fibrous surfaces (carpets, couches, etc), vacuum a surface multiple times in multiple directions.  Empty your vacuum outside.

Step 2: Wipe down all hard surfaces with damp microfiber wipes

Use a dilute solution of water and a little dish soap (or Citrasolv), a small squirt per gallon. Citrasolv may help remove odors.  Reusable microfiber wipes should be washed in hot water with laundry detergent.  Attach microfiber wipes to a Swiffer-like mop to clean floors, walls, and ceilings. Avoid TSP or other harsh cleaning solutions as they may add toxicity to your home.

Step 3: Pause and Repeat Step 1 and 2 as Necessary

The process of performing Step 1 and 2 will inevitably stir up dust.  Pause and wait one (1) day for the airborne dust to resettle.  A good test for the effectiveness of steps 1 and 2 is to empty the vacuum (outside!) and repeat step 1 again.  If the vacuum has significant dust in it, airborne particles remain and the full process should be repeated.  Heavily smoked spaces may require multiple cycles of Step 1 and Step 2.

Step 4: Consult with a professional cleaning company, if necessary.

If odors persist, consider hiring a trained professional for ozone treatment.  Steam cleaning fibrous surfaces like couches and carpets may also remove residual odors.


Run effective HEPA air filters in each room where you spend time.

Outdoor contamination may continue for a long time due to construction activities. HEPA air filters reduce odor and improve indoor air quality.  A HEPA filter can clean a single room but does not have a far reach.  Move HEPA filters from room to room for better coverage.

Remove shoes and contaminated clothes before entering home.

Outdoor contamination will attach to shoes and other outer clothing.  Always remove shoes outside and other contaminated clothing.


Relieve Exposure Symptoms

Soothe throat: Throat Coat Tea, Throat Quencher Spray, Kids Throat TLC, Marshmallow Root, Slippery Elm, Aloe, Fennel, Sinus Oil

Open breathing passages/calm the cough:  Lavender essential oil (diffuse or put in mask, honey, lozenges, Cough Quiet, Kids Cough, Calm Breathing Tea, Healthy Lungs Tea, Old Indian Wild Cherry Syrup, Lung Expectorant Tincture, Serious Cough Tincture, Herbal Respiratory Relief, Calm Breathing Tea, Deep Lung Tincture, Clear Lungs Capsules, Breathe Mushrooms, Kick-Ass Sinus, Mental Clarity essential oil

Calm nerves: Chamomile tea, Kids Calm, Stress Recovery Essential Oil, Calm Tincture, Rescue Remedy, Five Flower Essence, Mental Clarity Essential Oil, Stress Recovery essential oil, Calm Calm Tincture, Post-Trauma Essence, Nervous System Tonic, Relax Smelling Salts  

Build Natural Immunity

Probiotic supplements/fermented foods:

Boost immunity: Vitamin C, Zinc, Activated B vitamins, Daily Immune Mushroom capsules, Stamets 7 Mushroom capsules, Astragalus tea, Reishi tea/capsules, Synergy Green Powder, Adaptive Strategy tincture  

Detoxify Gently

Naturally detoxifying foods: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, spinach, beets, asparagus, apricots, plums, pumpkins, squash, and sweet potatoes

Safe herbal detoxification: Herbal Detox Tincture, Lymph Mover Tincture, Seaweed Bath, Good Samaritan essential oil, activated charcoal, chlorella, turmeric, milk thistle/artichoke capsules

Emotional Support for Children

Supporting Your Child Through The Wildfire Disaster:

Talking to Children About Disasters:

Talking With Kids About News:

Children’s Book: Once I Was Very Very Very Scared by Chandra Ghosh Ippen:  


Megan Kaun is a civil and environmental engineer, living in the Hidden Valley Estates neighborhood in Santa Rosa, which was mostly destroyed by the Tubbs fire.  Her home survived, but the neighborhood is devastated.  Prior to the fires, Megan was working on a number of initiatives in Sonoma County to reduce toxic exposure risks to the community, in collaboration with Sonoma County Conservation Action (SCCA), Better Beginnings, Santa Rosa School District, Santa Rosa Water, and County of Sonoma Agencies.  She also works with real estate developers on landscape and park design to reduce use of synthetic pesticides.

Nichole Warwick is a mother, psychologist and educator working to create a healthy and sustainable schools initiative in Sonoma County. She works collaboratively with Daily Acts and the Jonas Family Fund as an Environmental Health Program Innovator, researching the impacts of environmental toxics on children’s health and collaborating with experts in the field to support healthier and more sustainable schools in Sonoma County.  Nichole currently serves on the Ceres Community Project’s Board of Directors as Secretary and Chair of the Youth Leadership Committee. She is passionate about children and the environment, and she devotes her life to nurture and protect both.


This document was developed quickly as a guide for Sonoma County residents looking for ways to protect themselves in the aftermath of October 2017 wildfires.  We are looking for opportunities to expand and improve these guidelines.

Contact information:

Megan Kaun, [email protected], Cell: (773) 677-1639

Nichole Warwick, [email protected], Daily Acts: (707) 789-9664

Special thanks to Farmacopia (Lily Mazzarella, MS Herbal Medicine, Board Certified Nutrition Specialist) and Rosemary’s Garden (Lena Moffat). Recommendations are not intended to treat or cure any illness or disease. If you suspect that you have a medical problem consult with your physician. Some herbs may cause a allergic reaction.

Indoor cleaning and air quality contributions from Dave Osborne, expert in residential and commercial emergency restoration services ([email protected] 707-337-7878) and John Banta, CIH (Certified Industrial Hygienist), co-author of Prescriptions for a Healthy Home. Full text on cleaning recommendations: