We all know about the dangers of smoke inhalation during a house fire, but what about the wide-spread smoke of wildfires? Wildfire smoke is a mixture of fine particles and gases created when vegetation and other materials are burned. Wildfire smoke can harm anyone of any age; can irritate your respiratory system, hurt your eyes and worsen any existing lung or heart diseases.
Read on to learn how wildfire smoke exposure can damage your health and how to protect yourself when wildfire smoke blows into your area.
What are the effects of wildfire smoke exposure?
Breathing in smoke can have immediate health effects, like coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, and trouble breathing normally, even when the wildfires themselves are many miles away. A simple change in direction in the wind can mean that you need to take extra precautions to protect yourself.
Other side effects unrelated to the respiratory system may include:
- Headaches and fatigue
- Stinging eyes
- A scratchy throat
- Irritated sinuses and a runny nose
- Palpitations or an increased heartbeat
Children, older adults, pregnant women, and anyone with pre-existing heart or respiratory conditions are often more likely to become unwell if they breathe in wildfire smoke. It’s essential that if you are in—or care for anyone in—these high-risk groups you understand what measures to take when wildfire smoke blows into your town.
How to protect your health and improve air quality during wildfires
Certain parts of the country are more prone to wildfires than others, so if you live in one of those areas, it’s important to be prepared for health and safety reasons.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself during a wildfire:
- Keep indoor air clean, with all windows and doors closed. You can run an air conditioner if need be, but keep the filter clean and the fresh-air intake closed so no outdoor smoke gets inside. If this isn’t possible or if smoke is finding its way into your home, try to take yourself and your pets to a friend or family member’s home, or even a motel so you don’t subject your lungs to the smoke.
- Keep up to date on local air quality reports. If the smoke in your locality gets worse, the concentration of air particles will increase. You can check air quality reports through your local news station, certain air agencies, and on gov.
- Have at least a few days’ worth of nonperishable foods that you don’t have to cook. Frying, broiling, and grilling can contribute to indoor pollution levels, so if you’re susceptible to respiratory problems, have some canned goods or frozen meals at the ready.
- Avoid smoking, burning candles, incense, fireplaces, or gas stoves as these can all increase indoor pollution. You should also avoid vacuuming if possible, as it stirs up the particles already inside the home.
- Follow your doctor’s advice if you have asthma or another respiratory disease. Consider evacuating and always call your healthcare provider or emergency services if you’re having trouble breathing.
At Apurva Medical Care, we prioritize our Arizona patients’ health above all else. If you have any concerns about your respiratory health related or unrelated to wildfire smoke, we’re here to help. We pride ourselves in providing an excellent standard of care for our patients, 24/7. We take an interest in all aspects of our patient’s health, taking care of their routine and urgent healthcare needs. Click here to view our full list of treatments.