ATLANTA -- All that smoke smothering north Georgia is not just unpleasant - it's potentially unhealthy.

A few days of wood-smoke in the eyes, mouth and lungs may not necessarily be as dangerous as tobacco smoke, but it can make you sick.

What are you "smoking" from these wildfires?

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Mold spores

These are just a few of the gases and particles smaller than your eye can see that are building up in your lungs. So exactly what chemicals are you inhaling from burning forests?

There are thousands. But they often include:

  • Methane
  • Benzene (potential carcinogen)
  • Napthalene (used in pesticides)

It's rare that there are concentrations high enough to do permanent health damage, so what's the harm to healthy people?

Simply put - misery-inducing annoyances. The smoke can cause coughing and headaches along with eye and respiratory irritation.

But the problems are much more concerning among those with chronic health problems.

Wildfire smoke can worsen conditions such as asthma, allergies, lung disease and heart disease. It can also increase the risk of heart attacks.

Pets need to be protected from prolonged exposure to the wildfire smoke, too.

There are ways you can minimize the impact and protect yourself and your pets from the side effects of wildfire smoke.

One's pretty obvious - try not to spend much time outside.

The CDC recommends that we limit time outdoors, avoid strenuous activities outdoors, keep windows closed, and filter the inside air, if possible.

Some indoor air purifiers with HEPA filters can help.

As for dust masks, they don't work in wildfire smoke because they can't block the tiny particles from getting into your lungs.

And just like extreme heat and cold, smoke has its greatest impact among children and the elderly.