Smoke from Canadian wildfires triggered air quality alerts in more than a dozen US states on Wednesday, with health officials warning people such as children, the elderly or those with respiratory problems to limit time outdoors or stay indoors.
Yahoo News talked to health experts about how wildfire smoke can affect your health, what you can do to protect yourself, and how long the effects of the orange haze that blanketed large parts of the country will last.
How can I check the air quality in my area?
” of US Air Quality Index It’s getting a lot of media attention right now, but it’s really fantastic,” said Dr. Brady Scott of the American Respiratory Care Association. “Because you just can Enter your zip code And understand that air quality is where you are. If it’s green or yellow, it doesn’t matter to most individuals. When it is orange, there is concern that some people, especially those with respiratory problems, may be harmed. When you are in the red zone and we are in the purple zones, even if you are a healthy person.
OK, it says I’m in an air quality warning area. I can see and smell the smoke. What should be my main health concerns?
“Particulate matter levels are so high that even the average person with no chronic health conditions can be unhealthy and dangerous,” said Dr. Purvi Parikh of the Allergy and Asthma Network. “The more you’re exposed to it, the more likely it is to cause problems. And what’s happening with smoke is that these tiny particles can get into your lungs, and these particles, chemicals, pollutants, carbon monoxide can cause damage to your lungs. Therefore, it can cause inflammation over time. And it can turn into an asthma-like condition for some individuals if they are exposed to it continuously.
What is considered chronic exposure? A few hours?
“Yes. But as with anything in medicine, it depends on the individual and your underlying medical condition,” says Parikh. “So if you’re a very healthy person, you know, you should be fine wearing a mask for two hours without any long-term consequences. But if you’re inactive, or pregnant, or elderly with heart disease or lung disease, or people with pre-existing chronic lung disease or immune problems, I try to limit that exposure as much as possible. “
Is wildfire smoke the reason my allergies have gotten worse in the past few days?
“Absolutely,” says Parikh. “It can make your allergies worse, because it basically makes them worse, more inflammation, so your symptoms are worse. It makes your eyes burn and your skin itches more. Same thing with your cough – more coughing, wheezing, more asthma attacks. And if you suffer from sinus allergies, that can definitely make it worse. It can because this is the first port of entry for wildfire smoke – through your nose.
Authorities are encouraging people, especially children or those with chronic illnesses such as asthma, to limit outdoor activities or stay indoors. What if I have to go abroad? Do I need to wear a mask?
“The best thing is to check what the air quality is, and if it’s at an unhealthy level and you can stay indoors, that’s the best thing to do,” Parikh says. However, if you must go outside at all, we recommend wearing a mask to limit your exposure. And medical grade N95 or KN95 masks are the best during the covid era because they reduce some of the particles that get into your lungs. But even a surgical mask or any type of barrier is helpful.
wait me Read somewhere Although N95s can protect against fine particles, they do not protect against dangerous gases in wildfire smoke. is true?
“It’s true, it’s very likely that we’re exposed to some gases,” Parikh said. “You can’t filter everything with that N95 mask. I mean, you see how foggy it is in New York City, you can’t see the buildings on the street. That’s why we recommend that you limit your time outdoors using the mask as much as possible.
about what Pets?
“Absolutely,” says Parikh. “Pets are at risk because they suffer from many of the same lung diseases that we humans have. So they too are at risk.
“I worry about having a pet outdoors for long periods of time or having them do a lot of vigorous exercise or running around,” says Scott. The thing is, they are breathing in the air we are in, and it can lead to airway irritation and cause breathing problems for them as well.
How long will our exposure last?
“One of the challenges of wildfire smoke is really dependent on the weather — whether the wind carries the smoke or the rain in the forecast,” said William Barrett, national senior director of clean air advocacy at the American Lung Association. “The main issue with wildfire smoke exposure is that particulate pollution can persist for long periods of time, often requiring changes in wind or precipitation and moving out of the area. This is what drives wildfire smoke into communities and ultimately releases it.”
When the smoke clears, what should people who still have symptoms do?
“So if the air quality returns to a safe level and you notice any symptoms after a week or two, you should get checked out by a doctor,” says Parikh. “Because sometimes the exposure can weaken your lungs, weaken your sinuses and then predispose you to allergies or leave inflammation.”