Geriatrician, Hospitalist, Patient Advocate, Healthcare Educator

Wildfire Smoke Can Affect Your Health

Photo by Ahmer Kalam

This week we saw several states in the US get affected by the Canadian wildfires with concerns of dangerous air quality. In fact, New York City was ranked among the worst in the world on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Unlike normal air pollution, wildfire smoke can linger in the air for weeks and travel hundreds of miles. Wildfire smoke can contain traces of heavy metals, plastics, chemicals, carcinogens, and PM2.5 (fine particular matter under 2.5 microns which are particles 100 times thinner than a human hair). These particles can get deep into airways and leads to more inflammation and tissue damage than air pollution.

  • For healthy individuals with no pre-existing conditions, symptoms range from shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, eyes irritation, headache, fatique, sinus irritation, itchy skin
  • Those that are high risk include those with underlying lung or heart conditions, elderly, babies, pregnant women
  • Wildfire smoke has been linked to higher rates of strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, weakened immunity, increase respiratory infections.
  • There is concern that the effects of smoke from wildfires can last for few years

What can you do?

  • Check Air Quality Index in your area
  • Those that are living in dangerous air quality areas should stay indoors and close all windows, avoid outdoor activities, and if need to go out for any reason, should be wearing tightfitting mask such as N95 when outdoors.