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Know the Dangers of Wildfire Smoke

  • 1 min read

The Dangers of Wildfire Smoke

With our own offices based in Southern California, we know just how much wildfires can affect daily living. 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.

Health Concerns

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. Wildfire smoke can contain particulates like ash and soot, inorganic compounds like ammonium sulfate, biological materials such as mold spores and pollen, as well as CO₂, CO, and NO₂.  

These pollutants can cause mild to extreme discomfort. Studies shared by the EPA have linked wildfire smoke with a variety of hazardous effects on our cardiovascular and respiratory health. In an interview with AAMC, Joel Kaufman, MD, MPH, explained,

We’re now to a point where it’s understood that air pollution exposure contributes to both the acceleration of the underlying processes that increase your risk for cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke, but also that the days with elevated air pollution exposures [such as during wildfires] can trigger an event in a person who’s at risk for having an event.

Fine particles in wildfire smoke can cause coughing, congestion, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, symptoms may also include reduced lung function, strokes, and heart attacks.  

Additionally, wildfire smoke may negatively affect your skin. In another interview with AAMC, Kathyana Santiago Mangual, a dermatology research fellow at Mass Brigham General, noted,

The particulate matter in smoke can trigger an inflammatory response in the skin by activating certain receptors that lead to oxidative stress. This can lead to an immune response that results in impairment of the skin barrier and ultimately to the development and worsening of atopic dermatitis.

As wildfires become more common for people across the globe, limiting exposure within the home is an easy way to help prevent long-term effects.  

Who is Most Affected

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. 

How to Prepare for Wildfire Season

 

Our Helpful Sidekick

The Levoit Vital 200S Smart Air Purifier can help keep your home’s atmosphere fresh, regardless of what’s happening outside. With 3-stage filtration, smart control, and customizable scheduling, you can enter any season with better confidence in your home’s indoor air quality. 

 

Important Note

The information provided here is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be used in medical emergencies or for diagnosing or treating any medical condition. It's crucial to consult a licensed medical professional for diagnosis and treatment. External links are for informational purposes and do not constitute endorsements. No warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, is made as to the products and/or the accuracy, reliability, timeliness, or correctness of the information provided herein. 

 

Sources

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