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How to Protect Yourself From the Smoke Caused by Wildfires?

How to Protect Yourself From the Smoke Caused by Wildfires

How to Protect Yourself From the Smoke Caused by Wildfires

Only a few weeks after Canadian wildfires engulfed the Northeastern United States in heavy smoke, current fires are spreading additional air across the Midwest that the Environmental Protection Agency has declared unhealthy.

Currently, the air in Detroit and Cleveland is deemed to be “very unhealthy,” with Air Quality Index (AQI) ratings over 200.

According to the EPA, exposure to wildfire smoke can have negative health effects on people, resulting in symptoms like eye and respiratory tract irritation, asthma episodes, and heart failure.

The current air quality is exposing millions of Americans in the Eastern half of the country for the first time to dangerous wildfire smoke. Here are some tips from public health professionals on how to be safe:

Pay Attention to the AQI calculates a scale from 0 to 500 based on the presence of five primary contaminants. Even your ZIP code can be precisely searched for.

If there is smoke in your neighborhood, you might want to check often throughout the day, especially before engaging in any vigorous outdoor activity because smoke can spread quickly depending on wind patterns. When the AQI is in the red zone, which is when it is between 150 and 200, it is deemed unsafe to breathe. Everyone is advised to stay indoors for anything higher (purple for 200-300 and maroon for 300-500).

Limiting outdoor activity when the air is rated orange, or “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” also applies to persons with lung disorders such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lengthy COVID. According to the EPA, there is also an increased danger for children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with heart disease.

According to Dr. Brady Scott, a fellow with the American Association for Respiratory Care, “When it’s orange, there’s concern that some people, especially those with respiratory conditions, could be impacted.” Everyone is at risk while they are in the red zone, and this is more true when we are in the purple or maroon zones, even if they are supposedly healthy.

Keep the Air in Your Home Clean

You must also maintain clean indoor air during wildfire smoke occurrences, which requires closing windows and, if necessary, employing an air filtration system or single-room air purifier. In addition, experts advise running an air conditioner with indoor air flowing rather than outside air.

“Air purifiers with a HEPA [high-efficiency particulate air] filter draw in the smoke, trap the particles, and blow out clean air,” Dr. Raymond Casciari, a pulmonologist at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., told Yahoo Life.

If an air purifier is not immediately available, the EPA advises making your own by “attaching a furnace filter to a box fan with tape, brackets, or a bungee cord,” albeit its effectiveness is not assured due to a lack of study. If the filters become soiled or begin to smell like smoke, the EPA advises replacing them.

Outside, Mask on

When the air is considered toxic, authorities advise wearing a mask, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time outside. The same masks that reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 best also provide the most protection from smoke.

“You should consider filtration and fit, or the two Fs. You should use a high-quality mask for filtration, whether it’s a N95 or a KF94, according to Joseph Allen, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who spoke to To force all of the air you breathe through the mask’s filter, “you want that mask snug on your face.”

While surgical and cotton masks filter less smoke and don’t fit as snugly, they don’t provide as much protection from wildfire smoke as a KN95.

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Additionally, Mental Health May Be Impacted

Many inhabitants in the Western half of the country have experienced repeated interruptions to their favorite summertime activities due to wildfire smoke, which is becoming a more prevalent issue as a result of climate change.

Senior Editor of Yahoo News located in California David Knowles recently said, “In the West, we have become accustomed to the grim recurrence of weeklong, nearly annual stretches, during which wildfire smoke brings outdoor life to a virtual halt.”

A 2022 study that examined people impacted by wildfires on the West Coast and was published in the journal BMC Public Health revealed that “45.3% reported anxiety due to the smoke, and 21.4% reported feeling depressed because of the smoke,” according to Knowles.

Maintaining hope is therefore important because the air patterns that carry smoke to a city can just as readily change direction at a moment’s notice and drive it away.

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