Do you suspect you've been exposed to an unhealthy amount of wildfire smoke? First of all, don't panic. While smoke pollution can certainly contribute to respiratory problems, it's unlikely that short-term exposure to a moderate degree of smoke pollution has caused lasting damage. That being said, certain symptoms can provide clues that you may be inhaling an unhealthy level of smoke. If you or anyone in your family - especially sensitive groups like children and the elderly - are exhibiting these side effects during wildfire season, consider taking steps to keep smoke out of your home, and make sure you and your children are wearing particulate masks when spending time outdoors.
High levels of pollution can aggravate and even act as a catalyst for certain respiratory problems, including asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. It's not unusual for hospital admissions and serious respiratory-related health complications to increase during periods of intense wildfire smoke.
Health effects associated with wildfire smoke inhalation
Shortness of breath - Continuous exposure to smoke pollution may show up initially as shortness of breath, whereby you find it difficult to breathe even during low-impact tasks.
A sore throat - A sore throat can be closely associated with smoke inhalation. Pay attention to sensations of itching or tingling. When observing your children, pay attention to visual clues like repeated gulping or scratching at the base of the throat. If they are repeatedly clearing their throats or making hacking noises, ask them to tell you why. If they are too young to explain, take them to see a doctor.
A burning sensation in your eyes - If smoke enters your eyes, it can cause a burning sensation which makes it hard to see or even to focus. Early warning signs could be eyes that are more red or dry than usual.
Chest pressure or pain - Feelings of pressure or even pain in your chest is another wildfire smoke symptom. If the person exhibiting these symptoms suffers from a cardiovascular or respirator condition, make sure they get medical treatment promptly. Remember, never wait to seek medical attention if you're experiencing chest pain, regardless of your age or condition.
Headache, sinus pressure and runny nose - A runny nose, inflamed or painful sinuses and headaches are all common symptoms of wildfire smoke.
Coughing - This is an obvious one, but it's on our list for a very good reason. A cough that develops during a period of increased wildfire smoke is a straightforward symptom of over-exposure. A chronic cough can also exacerbate other symptoms of or health problems caused by smoke pollution. Take steps immediately to reduce your exposure and don't wait to see a doctor.
Wildfire and the smoke pollution that comes with it can be a primary contributor to poor air quality inside and outside of your home. If not taken care of, prolonged exposure to smoke pollution can cause lasting damage to your health. Pay attention to potential symptoms in yourself, your family, and event your pets , but don't wait until you can see (or feel) the side effects to take preventative action. There are steps you can take right now to improve the air quality in your home and office , and it's never too late to mitigate outdoor exposure with a fitted pm2.5 mask .