What is wildfire and how does it impact you?
Wildfire is a general term used to define the forest, grassland or any other vegetation fires. It is a phenomenon that occurs naturally but sometimes can be accidentally or deliberately caused by humans. Apart from having extensive damage to the property and human life, it affects the local atmospheric pollution levels and releases carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, organic chemicals and such other compounds. Firefighters are the most exposed to the wildfire pollution. Residents in the surrounding communities might not be directly exposed but they still are at a risk of exposure by contamination through water or soil.
Wildfire smoke contains fine particulate matter that can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular problems. It can impact the health of people already suffering from breathing problems and also worsen other allergies due to smoke, dust, pollen etc. Wildfire smoke has serious consequences if inhaled in high concentrations as it is rich in carbon monoxide which when inhaled reduces the oxygen supply to the body’s vital organs. Individuals suffering from cardiovascular problems may experience chest pains.
Who is all at risk?
1) People having respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis.
2) People having cardiovascular diseases.
3) Infants and young children.
4) Pregnant women.
5) Senior citizens.
What are the symptoms of allergies due to wildfire smoke?
1) Wheezing and breathlessness
2) A sore throat
3) Burning sensation in the eyes
4) Chest pains
5) Rapid heart rate
7) Nausea and headache
Since a sore throat is one of the symptoms of having the smoke allergy, it may also cause gum problems to which it needs professional dental attention before it gets worse.
What precautions to take if allergic to wildfire smoke?
1) Stay indoors during the wildfire and try not to go out even after it subsiding for some time. Keep the windows and doors closed. Run some air-conditioning (not on fan mode) to help filter out the particles inside the house.
2) Try and limit activities that might cause the breathing to worsen. Example vacuuming the house, active or passive smoking etc.
3) If suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, check with your doctors and keep the necessary medications in handy. In the case of areas where its too hot and staying inside is not a feasible solution, try and move out the region for some time till the pollution levels subside back to normal.
People not suffering from any respiratory, cardiovascular diseases or smoke allergies should also try to limit their exposure to the smoke and take some precautionary measures like staying indoors and wearing a mask while going outdoors.