Cities around the United States are currently experiencing their warmest summer in decades. – Temperatures have been rising for years, but this summer has broken heat records across the United States. Wildfires have already erupted in numerous states, including California, Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon, as a result of the extreme heat. Wildfire season has arrived, of course, following a record-breaking fire season in the western United States last year.
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Wildfires pose a health risk as well as a property risk to the people who live in these regions. Respiratory distress is common when the air is thick with smudge. Because of these enormous flames, the air we breathe might be polluted, which can affect how well we sleep. A good night’s sleep may be in jeopardy because of wildfires, which are becoming more frequent as a result of climate change making the West hotter and drier.
Why Wildfire Smoke Is Dangerous
Our lungs can be seriously damaged by smoke from wildfires. Particulate matter and hydrocarbons are both respiratory irritants in smoke, but ultrafine particles ingested during a fire provide the greatest risk. These particles might produce a runny nose and stinging or burning eyes. Wildfires, unlike other types of smoke, emit thousands of airborne compounds — many of which are toxic — making them more hazardous than other types of smoke. Toxic chemicals can spread across hundreds of miles, even if you are not directly near the fire.
Everyone’s response to wildfire smoke inhalation is unique, as are our health and sleep, although the CDC indicates that certain populations are more at risk than others:
- The aged, as well as those with preexisting heart or lung conditions
- It is more difficult for people to breathe per kilogram of body weight than it is for children to build their airways
Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you
Even if your sensitivity to wildfire smoke differs from others, it’s best to avoid inhaling it if at all possible. And when the smoke is thick, as it may be near a wildfire, it’s dangerous for everyone.
When wood and other organic materials burn, a complex mixture of gases and fine particles results in smoke. Fine particles in smoke provide the greatest risk to human health. They can get deep into your lungs because they are so little. Burning eyes and runny noses are just two symptoms that might be caused by them. Premature death has been linked to particle pollution exposure.
Some people are more at risk
If you live near a fire, it’s imperative that you keep an eye on the local air quality data.
- someone who has a heart or lung disorder, such as heart failure, angina, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, or asthma.
- a middle-aged or older person, which increases your risk of developing heart or lung problems.
- Asthma is more common in children and teenagers because their respiratory systems are still developing, they breathe more air (and pollution) per pound of bodyweight than adults, and they are more likely to be active outside.
- if you have diabetes, you have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.”
- if you’re a woman who is or will be pregnant because there are risks to both you and the unborn child.
How to tell if smoke is affecting you
Smoke in high amounts can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
- Burning eyes, a runny nose, coughing and phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breathing can all be signs of an allergic reaction.
- When it comes to heart and lung illness, smoking can exacerbate the symptoms even further.
- Chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and exhaustion are all symptoms of heart disease.
- Coughing, phlegm, chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath are some of the symptoms that may be experienced by people with lung disease.
If you’re at risk for particle-related symptoms, it’s critical to limit your exposure to smoke. In order to safeguard your health, follow these suggestions:
Make an appointment with your doctor about any health issues you may have.
If you live in a fire-prone area, get ready for the fire season.
Prepare ahead of time if you suffer from heart, vascular, or lung illness (including asthma), such as hypertension. What to do in the event of an asthma attack, as well as how much medicine to have on hand, should be discussed prior to leaving the region.
Stock up on nonperishable, no-cook items for a few days in advance. Frying and broiling food can increase the number of indoor pollutants.
Purchase an air purifier if you don’t already have one. Particle levels within your home can be reduced with the use of some room air cleaners, provided they are the proper size and model for your space, according to the manufacturer. Waiting till a fire breaks out before purchasing an air purifier is a bad idea. You’ll regret it. Don’t use an ozone-producing air cleaner. Your house will be much more polluted as a result of this.
The proper usage of N-95 or P100 face masks is essential, so keep some on hand. (1 page, around 650KB, in PDF) They can be found in a wide variety of hardware and home improvement stores as well as on the internet.
Make an appointment with your doctor about any health issues you may have.
During a fire
Keep an eye on the air quality reports in your area. To protect yourself, you should take further measures when the smoke worsens and the concentration of particles in the air grows. Local news media, your local air agency, or airnow.gov provide regular updates on the quality of the air in your area.
You should use common sense to direct your actions.
You shouldn’t mow the lawn or go for a run when there’s a strong smell or sight of smoke in the air, even if you don’t have a monitor in your region. It’s also not the best time for kids, especially those with asthma, to be out and about for long periods of time or to engage in severe physical activity. Pay heed to your body’s signals if you’re spending time outside. Reduce exposure if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
Even if you wear a dust mask, you won’t be protected!
Even if you wear a surgical mask, your lungs will not be protected from the small particles of wildfire smoke when wearing a paper “dust” mask. Wet or dry scarves and bandanas are equally ineffective. Using N-95 or P-100 respirators, which filter out fine particulate matter, can help, but only if they are worn appropriately. They can be found in a wide variety of hardware and home improvement stores as well as on the internet.
If you’re told to stay indoors, make sure the air you’re breathing is as pure as it can be. Only open your windows and doors when the weather is exceptionally hot. If you have an air conditioner, turn it on. Prevent extra smoke from entering the house by keeping the filter clean. Ventilate your home when the air quality is better by removing curtains and opening windows. Staying inside with the windows closed can be risky if you don’t have air conditioning. In these instances, look for a place to stay with family or a place with cleaner air.
If you’ve been prescribed medication, follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
Assist in reducing the interior’s particle concentrations.
Even though you may not be able to see the fine particles, they can accumulate in your home if the smoke is thick for an extended length of time. Even candles can pose a fire hazard if they’re left unattended for too long. Vacuuming is not necessary. That agitates particles that are already in your house. Keep away from cigarettes. You and the people around you will inhale even more pollutants as a result.
Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor and follow your asthma action plan if you have asthma or another lung illness. A five-day supply of medicine is recommended. If your symptoms worsen, make an appointment with your doctor right once.
If you have heart disease, make an appointment with your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if you have any questions. 911 is the phone number to call in the event of a heart attack or stroke.
How Smoke Affects Your Sleep
An international study found that air pollution was the biggest cause of global illness burden and ranked it fifth in terms of death risk. Additionally, the World Health Organization attributed 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide to ambient air pollution.
The central nervous system can be damaged by long-term exposure to intense air pollution, which can be exacerbated by the smoke from these huge wildfires. The frontal cortex and cerebellum are two areas of the brain where these airborne particles have been shown to improve sleep quality. These areas of the brain are susceptible to inflammation, which can lead to constrictions of the airways in the throat and nose.
Depression and anxiety, two of the most prevalent causes of insufficient sleep, are exacerbated by elevated levels of air pollution. The mental toll of having fires raging in their own backyards will almost certainly outweigh the physical costs for Western communities.
Smoke in high-risk regions can cause a variety of illnesses in individuals who are exposed to it. Preventing major harm requires being able to recognize them.
- swollen, red, and watery eyes
- Breathing problems or wheezing
- Pain in the chest
If you have any of these symptoms and live in a high-risk location, you should be on the lookout for other possible causes. If you’re experiencing allergy-like symptoms after being exposed to wildfire smoke, go to your doctor.
Wildfire Smoke and Your Sleep
This has nothing to do with sleeping, do you suppose. Smoke from wildfires has a significant impact on air pollution. When there’s a nearby wildfire, the air quality can get so bad that it’s dangerous to be outside. Smoke particles can harm your brain as well as your airways and lungs. Long-term exposure to high air pollution can actually harm your central nervous system, or CNS, over time.
Assessing how well your house is protected from the outside environment is one way to keep it safe. In order to get a better night’s sleep and avoid the health hazards associated with smoking, you can:
- Continuous ventilation systems, which draw in outside air without filtering it, should be turned off and your windows kept closed at all times.
- Keep an eye on the seals on all of your windows and doors.
- The air inside your home should be free of harmful contaminants if you have an air filtration system in place.
- Do not leave the house with your children or pets.
Tips to Sleep Better
If you’re in the path of a wildfire, you’re probably feeling anxious. You’re afraid about the safety of your loved ones in the area because of the smoke in the air. Prioritize sleep during this busy period. The more rest you get, the better equipped you will be to help out when the time arises.
Take a few moments to wind down and unwind before going to bed. Anything from reading a book to taking a bath could qualify. Doing some breathing exercises or listening to a guided meditation may be beneficial for you.
Go to bed as soon as you’ve settled down. You should leave your phone outside of your bedroom, where it belongs. Keep your phone out of your bedroom while you sleep.
Relaxing activities can help you sleep if you can’t get to sleep. Go back to sleep when you’re feeling drowsy and try again.
Sound Sleep Medical
Poor air quality and stress can have a significant influence on your overall health and ability to sleep at night. Make sure to keep an eye on yourself and your loved ones if you’ve been exposed to wildfire smog. Limit your time outside and avoid bringing smoke into your home. Medical attention should be sought promptly if you notice shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Protecting Yourself From Wildfire Smoke
It’s critical to have a good night’s sleep, but if there’s a nearby wildfire, you need also consider how the outside environment impacts your home’s interior. Safeguarding your home from harmful air pollution can be accomplished in a number of ways.
- Close all windows and turn off any ventilation systems that are on all the time. Your home’s materials and surfaces gently remove wildfire smoke toxins from the air. The removal process will be accelerated if the pace at which pollutants are released is slowed.
- Invest in a filtering system for your house. A home air filter may considerably enhance the quality of the air in your home, whether it is a forced-air system or a stand-alone device. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued recommendations on air-cleaning technologies for residential use.
- Your system should be running in “fan on” mode at all times. Rather than heating or cooling the air as it passes through the ducts and filters, modern forced air systems can be run in “fan” mode instead. The “fan setting” switch on some older thermostats may have only two positions: “auto” and “on.” “On” is the only option.
Over the last decade, wildfires have risen in size and scope, exposing an ever-increasing number of people to hazardous smoke levels. People in the impacted areas should keep an eye on their symptoms, take precautions in their homes, and seek medical attention if they experience difficulty breathing.
How do smoke and wildfires affect air quality?
As well as wreaking havoc on the natural environment and climate, wildfires also have an adverse effect on air quality and the health of the people living nearby. Wildfire smoke contains a complex mixture of particles and chemicals, the composition of which varies according to the fuel burned, the amount of oxygen present, and the temperature. There is no doubt that all smoke contains these elements:
- There is a lot of carbon monoxide in the air.
- Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.
- Soot or particulate matter
Eye, nose, and throat irritation are all possible side effects of even brief exposure to wildfire smoke. It’s possible that you’ll experience nausea and have decreased lung function as well. When the body’s supply of oxygen is reduced by carbon monoxide, headaches and decreased alertness might occur. Respiratory discomfort and shortness of breath can also be caused by inhaling microscopic particles smaller than 2.5 microns, which are invisible to the naked eye. It is possible for some persons to acquire bronchitis as a result of inhaling small particles for a long period of time.
Avoid Adding to Indoor Pollution
Indoor pollution can be exacerbated by cooking. Make a stock of nonperishables and foods that don’t need to be cooked instead of frying or broiling them. Vacuuming and other activities that generate airborne particles should be avoided. Don’t inhale anything noxious, and refrain from lighting anything on fire.
Try an Air Cleaner
Clean air from an air cleaner can assist in reducing the amount of pollution in your home. This is especially critical during times of high pollution in the air.
Wear N95 Respirator Masks
You may want to wear an N-95 or P-100 respirator to protect your lungs from fine particles. To be effective, they must be properly fitted and worn. Hardware and home improvement stores, as well as the internet, carry them.
Stay inside if the air quality is so bad that smoke can’t get in. As long as it’s not too hot outside, keep the windows and doors closed. If you’re experiencing worsening symptoms, don’t do any outside exercise for long periods of time.