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Wild Fires and Asthma

The smoky haze from wild fires contains small particles small enough not only to cause irritation of the eyes and nose, but be inhaled into the lungs.  This can worsen asthma and other respiratory conditions such as COPD leading to cough, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

If you have asthma or other chronic respiratory problems:

  • Stay inside as much as possible, with doors and windows shut and preferably with clean air circulating through air conditioners and/or air cleaners. Use the recirculation setting on air conditioners so outside air will not be moved inside.
  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan and monitor your peak flows if applicable
  • If outdoor trips in smoky areas are necessary, breathe through a damp cloth to filter out larger particles in the air.
  • Ordinary dust masks, designed to filter out large particles, will not help as they still allow the more dangerous smaller particles to pass through. Special, more expensive dust masks with true HEPA filters can filter out damaging fine particles. Consult with your physician before using a mask, especially if you have a lung disease.
  • When driving in smoky areas, keep car windows and vents closed. Operate air conditioning in the “recirculate” setting.
  • Refrain from exercising outdoors, especially if you smell smoke or have throat irritation.
  • Extra precautions should be taken with children who have developing lungs and higher respiratory rates which translates into breathing more air for their body mass.

This information is solely for informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. 

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