With offices based in Southern California, we know just how dangerous wildfires can be to your health. While not everyone in our area is directly affected by seasonal fires, the mixture of dangerous gases, odors, and particles spread by wildfire smoke often has a detrimental impact on nearby communities.
Additionally, wildfire smoke can travel for hundreds of miles. According to the National Weather Service, smoke from the 2020 California wildfires rose into the atmospheric jet stream and traveled all the way to the East Coast. In some areas, there was even enough smoke to partially obscure the sun and lower the air temperature. During a study through Climate Central, scientists found that cities within 50–100 miles of active wildfires could experience 5–15 times worse air quality ratings than normal.
As wildfires occur more frequently around the world, we wanted to gather information on the danger they pose to your health and how you can protect yourself.
To fully understand the danger of wildfire smoke, you need to know what it contains. PM2.5 particulate matter is defined by the EPA as fine, inhalable particles that are generally 2.5 microns or smaller.
As wildfires become more common for people across the globe, limiting exposure within the home is an easy way to avoid long-term effects.
While wildfire smoke is detrimental to everyone’s health, it may affect some more than others. Those with pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma and emphysema, can experience a sharper increase in discomfort. During wildfire season, these people may notice increases in asthma attacks, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Certain age groups, such as children and the elderly, may also be at an increased risk during wildfire season. As children’s lungs are still developing, and the elderly are more likely to have heart and lung sensitivities, an extra dose of precaution is ideal for these two groups.
Apart from physical effects, anxiety is perhaps the most universal effect when it comes to wildfire season. In times of worry, it’s helpful to remain in close contact with friends and family—even a quick phone call or visit makes a huge difference. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that this season won’t last forever, and make preparations beforehand to help yourself feel confident and in control.