Dr. Joy’s Myths Busters: Effects of Distant Wildfires 

 September 22, 2020

By  Dr. Joy Lasseter

Wildfires create large areas of disruption that interrupt transportation, delivery of goods and services, polluted air, property damage and cause loss of lives.

Whether you live near fires or not your lung health can still be affected. Windstorms whipped up by the high heat of large fires can blow the pollutants far away to other states. 

What are the symptoms? If you are experiencing any of the following you may have breathed in smoke and pollutants: throat irritation, coughing, runny nose, sneezing, eye irritation, wheezing, shortness of breath and congestion. This is especially challenging for you if you have COPD, allergies or asthma.

What are pollutants? Millions of tiny particles can float in the air and be blown for long distances on the winds. The tiniest particles can go deep into the lungs and cause inflammation. When the fires consume homes the additional particulates from dangerous chemicals found in plastic, building materials, household furnishings and belongings can damage your lungs. 

How can you protect your respiratory system? Don’t breathe smoky air. The only masks that can protect you are N95 and P100 respirators. But they must be fitted properly to eliminate air leaks. 

Cloth face masks will not protect your lungs from inhaling the toxic particulates.

If you must go outside wear a hat or scarf to avoid falling ash from falling in your hair. Also wear the same jacket or rain coat on errands to prevent smoke and ash from getting into your clothing. Hang your coat and hat in the garage. Don’t bring the smoky odors and dirty ash into your home!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Keep your windows closed. Don’t run exhaust fans in the kitchen or bathrooms. They pull in outside air! When using your home or car air conditioner select the “recycle interior air” setting if your unit has that function. If your home air conditioner has washable filters that can be reused, so much the better!

My heart goes out to all those everywhere who have been affected by the tragedies caused by  fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, tornadoes, tsunamis, flooding and Covid 19. I pray for the fire fighters, emergency responders, hospitals, doctors, nurses, other support teams, essential workers, displaced refugees and deceased people and their loved ones. Will you join me with your prayers?

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