Aug 30 , 2019
Wildfires are one of the most dangerous sources of air pollution. They cause spikes in fine particles which could be harmful to human health.
Whenever there’s a wildfire, air pollution will always be present as the fire affects the air quality. This is why environmental scientists declared air pollution and wildfires as two dangerous combinations.
They are both interconnected, do you know why? Whenever there are wildfire, ashes and thick smoke will choke around the skies.
You may think the thick smoke would disappear in no time. But global air currents will carry away polluting gases and small particles from the smoke and it will lead to air pollution.
When wildfire pollutes the atmosphere, it would be unhealthy to live. It could even be life-threatening. So, try any of the following tips when the air quality is unhealthy.
What You Should Do When The Air Quality Is Unhealthy During Wildfires
When it comes to your health, an ounce of protection is better than a pound of cure. Therefore, try to apply the following tips when you feel the atmosphere is unhealthy.
- During wildfires, try as much as possible to stay indoors. It will limit your exposure to polluting gases and small particles that move along with the smoke.
- Also, while indoors try to switch off your air conditioner. This is to ensure that outdoor smoke doesn’t find a way into your home.
- Ensure you change your apartment’s air filter always especially during wildfire season
- Get an N95 mask with two straps that can go around your head.
- I don’t want to sound promotional. But paper dust and surgical mask can’t truly protect you against smoke’s fine particles. The N95 mask is all you need.
While you are indoors, check your local air quality index for a recent update about the smoke situation.
Like I mentioned earlier, air pollution and wildfires are two dangerous combinations. Smoke from fires are harmful air pollutants.
I strongly advise that you always wear an N95 face mask when you are around a wildfire. Otherwise, you could breathe in gaseous chemicals like carbon monoxide methane, formaldehyde, and acetic acid.
But there’s a more significant risk people tend to forget. This risk could affect you even when you aren’t around the wildfire. The risk is particulate matter.
Let me tell you something about wildfire smoke. The larger or coarse particles in the smoke may irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. However, these particles can’t travel down the lungs because irritation doesn’t go beyond the throat.
But the fine particles in smoke (which are as small as a fraction of the human’s hair’s diameter) are the real deal. They are a severe threat to your health.
You could inhale these particles deep into your lungs and find their way into your bloodstream. You know what this means right? If healthy people inhale fine particles, it will make them sick. And if sick people inhale them, it will make them sicker.
Again, it is sometimes difficult to predict the direction wildfires smoke goes and how it will affect the air quality.
Ways Smoke From Wildfire is Affecting Your Health
Smoke from wildfires always affects the quality of air around. Here are some of the ways smoke from a fire is affecting your health;
- Burning Eyes
- Runny nose
- Inability to breath regularly.
If you have prolonged exposure to smoky air, it could lead to temporary changes in lung function and capacity. It could also bring about headache and reduction in your alert level.
More often than none, the above-mentioned symptoms are due to the irritation of the mucous membrane and respiratory tract by particulate matters.
People Who Face The Most Risk When Exposed To Smoke
When vulnerable people are exposed to smoke, it could be life-threatening.
When people who have heart diseases, asthma, and emphysema, it could be hazardous. Research reveals that when someone with lung disease inhales a high level of particulate matter, it could lead to irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and possibly death.
Older adults are also susceptible to the danger of wildfire smoke. Most times, they are more prone to having heart or lung diseases.
It could also be life-threatening when children are exposed to smoke. Since their lungs are still developing, it makes them more vulnerable.
When you expose your child to smoke, he may experience shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Also, if the child is asthmatic, exposing him to wildfire smoke will only trigger a more severe asthma attack.
People with diabetes are also at high risk when exposed to wildfire smoke. This is because diabetes patients mostly have heart or respiratory problems. And inhaling smoke could complicate these conditions.
Inhalation of smoke is very harmful to pregnant women. It could cause severe complications for both the mother and the baby.
How To Protect Yourself From Wildfire Smoke
By now, you should know that wildfires happen everywhere. And it often affects the health of thousands of people. So, if you live in an environment that’s prone to wildfires, here’s how to stay safe and protect your lungs from smoke and ash.
Keep Track Of Local Smoke Warning
You can protect yourself from wildfire smoke by paying keen attention to local air quality. Also, try to keep track of local smoke warning in the news. You can check AirNow.gov to check the air quality update in your area.
Take Note Of Particles in The Air
Always bear in mind that smoke comes with airborne particles. Some of these particles can’t be seen, and are very dangerous to the health, especially when you breathe them to your lung tissue.
It would be in your best interest to always stay indoors during wildfires to avoid breathing these particles.
Use Air Purifier To Improve Indoors Air Quality
During wildfire season, ensure you always use an air purifier to improve your indoor air quality. As of today, it’s only air purifier you can use to remove smoke particles around you.
Try To Get an N95 Mask During Wildfire Season
Far from what many people think, paper or surgical mask can’t protect you from wildfire smoke. They can’t filter out dangerous microscopic particles that come with smoke.
If your area is severely affected by wildfires, an N95 mask will be perfect. It would protect you from inhaling dangerous microscopic particles into your lung tissue.
One great thing about having an N95 respirator is that it can filter out about 95% of particles as small as 0.03 microns.
Ensure Your Home Is Airtight
During wildfire season, keeping your home airtight is an easy way to improve your indoor air quality. I understand that your home could be stuffy. But don’t be tempted to open the windows or doors, especially if you are within 100 miles away from the wildfires.
This is another area people get it wrong and become a victim of wildfires through air pollution. So, if a fire directly or indirectly affects your home, be very careful when cleaning it.
Do you know why? Debris from a wildfire could still burn slowly for some days. And it could still emit air pollutants when you try to move them. For this reason, try to wear an N95 mask when cleaning up and ensure the debris thoroughly dried out.
Have an Escape Route
I know what you are thinking. Nobody wants to imagine that a wildfire will happen in their area. But it’s a necessary step for yourself and family safety. For this reason, try to have an escape plan and route in place. It will keep you organize should it finally happens.
As a rule, try to contact your state emergency services for detailed information about the shelter, insurance, and transportation options should wildfire happens. This may sound strange to you, but if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
Set up an Emergency Kit
An emergency kit is handy during a wildfire and other related disasters. The emergency kit should contain first-aid supplies, copy of relevant documents, three days worth of food and water, toiletries, batteries, and flashlights. You should also have one or two N95 respirators on your emergency kit to keep your lungs healthy.
Leave The Area
If your area isn’t safe anymore, try to leave immediately. It’s a better way to protect yourself from smoke inhalation. While you leave, try to track the smoke situation in the local news still.
From this post, you will agree with me that air pollution and wildfires and two dangerous combinations. But It's better to seek medical attention immediately when you notice any of the following signs — chronic cough due to smoke, unusual weakness, chest pain, and tightness.
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