How To Minimize the Health Risks of Wildfire Smoke

With the affects of Canadian wildfires that are sweeping down the East Coast, millions of
people in the U.S. are being impacted by hazardous air quality. It was announced that schools
in New York and Washington had to cancel outdoor activities, and airports are facing
interference due to the poor visibility.

Experts state that smoke is responsible for many health problems such as trouble breathing,
burning eyes, dizziness, headaches, and nausea. It is recommended by doctors to seek
medical attention immediately if symptoms persist.

“This is like a small, very tiny particulate matter that goes deep into the airways. It’s not an
allergen; it’s an irritant. And so an irritant can affect anyone’s lungs and cause you to start
coughing and feeling that throat itchiness,” says Dr. Shilpa Patel, the medical director of
Children’s National IMPACT DC Asthma Clinic in Washington.

“This air is particularly dangerous to the very young, the elderly and pregnant ladies. So it is
recommended that they do not spend any time outside…If you feel so inclined to have to
exercise outside on a day like today, it is recommended that you are far from traffic, where
there’s not extra pollution. Because right now, it is really bad.”
Here are the ways to minimize health risks:
● Stay indoors. However, in the most necessary situations a N95 mask is beneficial for
prevention against the smoke. Many will use surgical masks as a substitute but it is not
recommended as particles can still enter your airways.
● Close your windows, turn on the air conditioner, and turn on air filters
● Avoid vacuuming; to prevent unnecessary heavy breathing and stirring up particles
already inside your home.
● Take medications and retrieve inhalers if you suffer from asthma, allergies, or heart

“We expect wildfires are going to become more frequent in a warming climate, which is what
we have. We typically see these impacts with wildfires in the Western US and in the Mountain
West. The East Coast is generally a little bit more insulated from this type of thing. Our forests
tend to be wetter and don’t burn as much, but looking forward with climate change, while this
is kind of a unique experience that we’re seeing right now, it may become a lot less unique and
a little bit more common in the future, which would be unfortunate.


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