CONCORD (KPIX) – All of the debris, ash and smoke from the wildfires has blanketed the Bay Area and made the air especially unhealthy. Air quality her is the worst in the world.

Smoke from raging fires has nearly blotted Mount Diablo out of the skyline, in Contra Costa County. The smoke isn’t just hanging high in the air, but also filling our lungs – making respiratory problems like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worse.

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“We also know that exposure to wildfire smoke especially makes the elderly more susceptible to cardiac outcomes – things like heart attacks, strokes, arrhythmias all increase,” says Dr. Mary Prunicki, the director of air pollution and health research at the Sean Parker Center for Asthma and Allergy Research at Stanford University.

Her best advice – stay home if you can, because there’s still more than smoke to be worried about.

“We know areas where there are increased air pollution, there are increased COVID rates — so most likely, this type of pollution in our air it will impact the severity and the rates of COVID.”

If you are staying home, you will want to change your air filters. At Ace Hardware in Walnut Creek, they’ve been selling fast, but make sure you bring your old filter to the store.

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“It’s almost like lumber,” says Nikko Miladinovich. “The size that is written on the filter may not be the exact size it measures out at. So, sometimes people will measure the frame that the filter sits in and come in with a measurement that’s different than what you actually see on the filters and then we’re not sure.”

Also, be sure to read the label to see what is getting pulled from the air.

“Most filters will have some sort of a table or graphic that will describe all of the different levels of filtration – smoke in particular is really important.”

As for which mask you should wear, “For the air pollution, you’d want to wear your N95 with the vent – for the COVID the vent does not work – you’d want the other, so if it’s possible to double layer, that might be a solution,” says Dr. Prunicki.

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