A Roaring Wildfire

How Does Smoke From Fire Affect You And Your Health?

In 2020, there were 49,149 wildfires in North America.  Moreover, there were approximately 499,000 structure fires in the United States.

These fires are not only incredibly destructive to people’s homes and properties, but they can also be deadly.

It is crucial not to underestimate the effects smoke from fires has on your health. Staying aware of the immediate and long-term effects can help you combat damage from the smoke altogether.

How to Tell if Smoke Is Affecting You

Exposure to smoke from fires may cause several symptoms. These health effects arise because there are tiny particles in the air that irritate your nose, throat, and even your lungs.

A person may experience symptoms of smoke inhalation that include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Persistent difficulty breathing
  • Burning /water eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Phlegm build-up

Exposure can also worsen the symptoms of lung disease. Someone with chronic bronchitis, for example, may experience shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and tightening of the chest. Smoke exposure can exacerbate these symptoms, putting the person in potentially life-threatening danger.

People with heart disease also risk worsening their symptoms. They may experience heart palpitations, chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

Can Smoke Inhalation Cause Long-Term Effects?

Most people only inhale smoke for short periods, like in house fires. Symptoms may persist for a short period after the exposure.

However, wildfires can persist for days, weeks, or even months. These situations are when inhalation can cause long-term effects.

Ambient air contains fine particles that can persist for long periods. These particles may increase the rate of cardiovascular disease.

There is also an increased risk for people living in urban settings, where there is more air pollution. It is also possible for people who are exposed to smoke frequently, like firefighters, to develop these symptoms.

Firefighter Dealing With A Blazing Fire

Who Is Most at Risk?

Some people will feel more negative effects of wildfire smoke than others. It’s especially crucial to be aware of air quality if you are:

  • Someone with lung diseases like COPD, emphysema, or asthma
  • Someone with diabetes. Underlying cardiovascular disease is more likely among people with diabetes.
  • A pregnant person. You and your developing fetus may both be at risk.
  • Over the age of 65. Older adults are more likely to develop lung or heart diseases.
  • Suffering from a respiratory infection, including the common cold, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia, etc.
  • Someone who smokes. You are already at risk for lung disease and lower lung function.
  • Experiencing existing circulatory or heart problems, such as dysrhythmias, coronary artery disease, and angina.
  • Someone with allergies. You may often have airways that become chronically inflamed. This inflammation can make the airways sensitive to particles in the air.

How to Protect Against Smoke

There are many ways to protect yourself and your family from health risks during a fire. The best way to protect yourself is to move away from the area altogether to minimize exposure.

However, this option is not the most practical for most people. If you must stay in proximity to fires, make sure to follow these tips to avoid health risks.

Monitor Your Local Air Quality

Most local news stations show air quality reports, so you’ll know whether there is heavy air pollution. News agencies will also share tips for staying safe, so make sure you tune in often.

Talk to Your Doctor

Stay in contact with your health care provider about your health and medications you may be taking. This communication is especially vital for people with asthma or other lung diseases.

Make sure to have at least a five-day supply of your prescription during the fire. Call your doctor if your symptoms get worse.

Stay Indoors

You should try to stay indoors where there are fires, especially if your local authorities advise to do so. Always keep the doors and windows closed.

If it is too hot to stay indoors, run the air conditioner with a clean filter so that you don’t bring pollutants inside. Those without an air conditioner should stay with relatives or a cleaner air shelter if it is too hot in your home.

Don’t Pollute Your Indoor Space

Many people forget that you can contribute to indoor pollution as well. Stock up on non-perishable foods that do not require frying.

You should also avoid using anything that burns when air quality is low. Appliances included in this are gas logs, gas stoves, fireplaces, and even candles.

Try not to smoke indoors, either, as it will put pollution in your home and your lungs.

Wear a Mask

If you must go outdoors for your job or commute, be sure to wear a mask. We recommend an N-95 or P-100 respirator, rather than surgical or paper masks. The former is suitable for the fine particles in the air. You can buy them online or at hardware stores.

Buy an Air Cleaner

Air cleaners can remove particles from smoke and improve your indoor air quality. It would be best if you placed them in the rooms where you spend most of your time. Make sure to keep your windows and doors closed while you run these filtration systems.

Hire Smoke Damage Clean-Up Experts

Fire and smoke can linger in the home’s vents and airways, long after the initial incident. Hire professionals to clean your vents and eliminate residual soot and smoke particles.

In Conclusion

Smoke inhalation has a range of short and long-term effects for everyone, not just those with lung or heart problems. It means you should be aware of the severe harm it can do to you and your health.

Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself and stay safe, no matter if you are experiencing wildfires or structural fires.

When your property has been through a fire, it’s time to call the experts to restore it properly. All Dry USA is available for fire damage restoration and emergency smoke and soot clean-ups. We’ll get your home or business looking good as new. Call (866) 286-5387 for service today!

Ben Suiskind
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