With the recent wildfires in California, many families are at risk of suffering the effects of poor air quality. It is very important to stay alert and pay attention to local air quality reports during these catastrophic events.
You may wonder, "Am I at risk too?"
If any one of the following applies to you, you are at a higher level of risk than others in regions affected by wildfires.
- Suffering from a heart or lung disease: with conditions such as heart failure, angina, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or asthma
- Older age: more susceptible to heart or lung disease
- A parent of children: Children’s respiratory systems are still developing, and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults, which means they are inhaling more air pollution than you. Plus, they are more likely to be active outdoors, causing them to be more likely to get asthma
- An individual with cardiovascular disease: with conditions such as high blood pressure, vascular diseases, heart failure and cerebrovascular conditions
- Diabetes patient: If you have diabetes, you may have an underlying cardiovascular condition which can put you at even greater risk
- Pregnant women: Any level of risk could result in potentially damaging health effects
So, what is in wildfire smoke?
Wildfire smoke is a mixture of thousands of individual compounds, including harmful, smoke particles and gases that has the potential of a severe health risk to anyone living nearby and downwind from a fire. Inside wildfire smoke often includes:
- Water vapor, particulate matter, and trace minerals
- Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides
- Hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide (contribute to elevated ozone levels)
- Acrolein and formaldehyde (potent respiratory irritants)
The make up of the air during a wildfire depends on multiple factors such as the types of wood burning, the moisture content of air, the fire temperature, wind and other weather-related influences. However, the most common pollutant that can be the primary threat to your health is particulate matter.
While fine particles that are smaller than 2.5 microns can penetrate into your lungs, it's the ultra-fine particles (smaller than 0.01 microns) that are the most dangerous particulate matters found in wildfire smoke. These small particles find their way into your bloodstream, through which they can reach any organ in your body.
Then, how do you tell if smoke is affecting you?
If any of the below symptoms are triggered after a fire in your area, you know you need to protect yourself from the smoke.
- burning eyes
- a runny nose
- difficulty breathing
- sore throat
If you have heart or lung disease, smoke may make your symptoms worse:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
People with lung disease may not be able to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as usual, and may experience symptoms such as:
- chest discomfort
- shortness of breath
If you think you have any of these symptoms due to wildfire smoke, the immediate action you must take is to limit yourself from the exposure to smoke. These are some of the tips to limit wildfire smoke exposure:
- Remain indoors as much as possible. If you can find buildings that effectively stop outdoor air from getting inside, it is most helpful to stay inside as much as possible.
- Wear a mask outdoors. If you have to go outside, wear a respirator mask with at least an N95 or N100 rating to help protect against smoke particles.
- Create a clean air sanctuary inside your home. Wildfire smoke particles and gases can quickly build up inside your home. Keep windows closed and seal off any openings to the outside, including vents. When using an air-conditioner, be sure to set it to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake. Filter the air, when ventilating the space. A high-performance air purifier for wildfire smoke, such as the IQAir HealthPro Plus, will help remove smoke particles of all sizes from the indoor air. The HealthPro Plus will also help control ozone levels. This is critical if you live in an urban area downwind (even remotely) from wildfires.
- Avoid activities that further pollute the indoor air. Avoid burning candles, using the fireplace, or even vacuuming (unless you own a high-performance HEPA vacuum cleaner such Dyson V8 Absolute). All of these can otherwise become additional sources of indoor air pollutants.
Wildfire smoke events can occur seemingly without warning. But there are steps you can take to prepare yourself especially if you live in one of those regions that are prone to have wildfire.
We've also put a collection of healthy home essentials for you to prepare and avoid any health risk potential from poor indoor air quality, so feel free to tour around here.
Refresh Smart Home is working hard to find the best solutions to resolve bad air quality that can risk you and your family's health. If you have any questions in regards to how you can prepare and protect yourself from being affected by such events, please feel free to contact us, and one of our indoor air quality experts can help you protect your family.