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Protect Your Lungs from Wildfire Smoke


Protect Your Lungs from Wildfire Smoke

Dry conditions all over America increase the risk of wildfire, especially near drought-stricken wilderness areas. For those living in an area susceptible to wildfire, it’s important to stay alert for wildfire warnings and take action before a fire starts to protect themselves from smoke inhalation.

Wildfires miles away produce smoke that may reach your community. Wildfire smoke consists of gases and fine particles from burning plant materials. Smoke irritates the eyes and respiratory system. For those who suffer from lung disease, inhaling any type of smoke is especially harmful. The easiest ways to protect yourself from wildfire smoke is to stay indoors and reduce physical activity.

Who is Most Affected by Wildfire Smoke?

  • People with heart or lung diseases are at a higher risk of complications from wildfire smoke.
  • Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, perhaps due to their higher tendency to suffer from heart and lung disease.
  • Children are more likely to be affected by smoke because their airways are still developing. Children breathe more air for their body weight than adults and often spend more time outdoors.
  • Pregnant women.

Though older adults, pregnant women, children and people with preexisting conditions are especially at risk to smoke exposure, healthy people can suffer from smoke inhalation as well.

Be Aware of the Symptoms of Increasing Respiratory Distress

Understanding symptoms are key to protecting yourself from further exposure. Once you start to feel symptoms, take action to remove yourself from a situation in which the air might be polluted by wildfire smoke. Keep your eye out for these symptoms:

  • Asthma attack
  • Coughing
  • Greater-than-usual Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Irritated sinuses
  • More than a normal amount of trouble breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Runny nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Stinging eyes
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath

How to Lower Your Risk

  • Be aware of local air quality reports. Monitor public health messages. In case of wildfire nearby, avoid spending time outdoors. airnow.gov is an excellent resource for tracking air quality in your community.
  • Consult local visibility guides. Some communities monitor the amount of particles in the air, measured by how far they can see.
  • Keep indoor air as clean as possible. If your community is advised to stay indoors, it’s important to keep windows and doors closed. Run the air conditioner, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to keep contaminated air outside.
  • Avoid polluting your indoor air. Burning anything indoors, whether candles, wood in the fireplace, or even a gas stove, increases indoor pollution. Vacuuming stirs up particles in the home, especially in homes with carpet, and smoking is a terrible thing to do to your lungs under the best of conditions.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s advice about medications and your respiratory management plan if you have a lung disease. If you are having trouble breathing, evacuate the area. Your health is worth the inconvenience. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.
  • When driving through smoky areas, keep car windows and vents closed. Set your vehicle air conditioner to recirculate to keep unhealthy contaminated air outside.
  • Invest in a particulate respirator face mask. Contrary to popular belief, common dust masks will not protect you from wildfire smoke, nor will bandanas (wet or dry) surgical masks or tissues. This is because the particles found in wildfire smoke are much too small for a common mask to filter out. You can find particulate respirator masks at many hardware stores and pharmacies. Look for a mask with the word “NIOSH” and either “N95” or “P100” printed on it. Choose a mask that seals against your face with two straps that go around your head, in a size that fits over the nose and chin. These masks can be difficult for those with lung disease to use, so consult with your primary care physician before purchasing.

Wildfire smoke can present breathing problems for the healthiest of people, but it is especially troublesome for those who suffer from lung diseases. If you find yourself in a situation where you are nearby wildfire smoke, know how to protect yourself.

About the Lung Institute

Many lung disease sufferers enjoy an improved quality of life after receiving stem cell therapy from the Lung Institute. If you or a loved one suffers from lung disease, contact one of our patient coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to see if you are a candidate for stem cell therapy.


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* All treatments performed at Lung Institute utilize autologous stem cells, meaning those derived from a patient's own body. No fetal or embryonic stem cells are utilized in Lung Institute's procedures. Lung Institute aims to improve patients' quality of life and help them breathe easier through the use of autologous stem cell therapy. To learn more about how stem cells work for lung disease, click here.

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