Coping with intense and protracted wildfire smoke is both physically and mentally demanding. For many years, I have been researching how this unpredictable and intense sort of air pollution affects the respiratory and cardiovascular health of exposed people. Here are some tips to help you and your family avoid the dangers of wildfire smoke.
Recognise your vulnerability
Some persons are more vulnerable to the health impacts of smoking, particularly those who have asthma, COPD, heart disease, diabetes, other chronic diseases, or acute infections such as COVID-19
Pregnant women, infants, young children, older persons, and those who work or live outside are additionally at risk. Anyone who relies on rescue drugs should keep them on hand at all times.
Pay attention to your body
The same amount of smoke might cause extremely diverse reactions in different persons. If you feel ill, pay attention to your body and take steps to decrease your exposure.
The most typical symptoms are eye discomfort, sore throat, cough, and headache, which usually go away as soon as the smoke clears. Anyone experiencing more serious symptoms, such as trouble breathing or heart palpitations, should contact a doctor.
Smoke is a hazard to the environment that must be acknowledged, not a personal task to conquer.
Take things slowly
The more smoke you inhale, the harder you breathe. The normal adult breaths roughly six litres of air per minute at rest, but this can easily rise to 60 litres during hard exertion.
Make use of a portable air cleaner
When used appropriately, portable air cleaners with HEPA filters can considerably lower indoor PM 2.5 concentrations. Smaller units can be used to maintain a single room somewhat clean as a refuge when needed.
In a small space, a high-quality furnace filter glued to a box fan can also work well, however do-it-yourself devices should never be left running unattended.
Seek for pleasant community venues
Libraries, community centres, and commercial malls frequently feature extensive air filtering systems and relatively acceptable interior air quality.
Consider wearing a face mask
The COVID-19 epidemic has taught us a lot about face masks, which is a silver lining. Although a well-fitting N95 respirator is usually the best solution for wildfire smoke, current research indicates that alternative masks can give adequate protection from PM 2.5 provided they are tightly placed around the face. For filtering fine particles, masks with numerous layers of different materials performed well.
Consume plenty of water
Staying hydrated aids in the removal of toxins by the kidneys and liver, which can minimise any systemic inflammation induced by wildfire smoke inhalation.
Understand where to look for information
The effects of wildfire smoke on air quality can shift quickly. Understand how to keep up to date on local situations. When air quality begins to deteriorate, smartphone apps such as the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in Canada and SmokeSense in the United States can deliver notifications.
Keep an eye out for wildfire smoke forecasts
Forecasting wildfire smoke is more difficult than forecasting weather, but models improve year after year. Smoke projections for the next 48 hours are provided by tools such as FireWork in Canada and BlueSky in the United States.
Begin planning for the upcoming season right away
As the climate changes, wildfire seasons are becoming longer and more severe. The easiest approach to protect oneself against smoke is to plan and prepare ahead of time. In western North America, there is growing realisation that humans must learn to live with wildfires and smoke.