In 2015, the world saw one of its worst wildfire years on record, unfortunately, 2022 is predicted to be worse. With wildfires currently raging across much of Europe, we’re all susceptible worldwide to inhaling particulate matter from this traveling smoke. Climate change has been pointed to as being the primary catalyst triggering higher temperatures across the globe, particularly during spring and summer. Due to spring ending sooner in recent years, the onset of dry soil leads to droughts, which produces prime conditions for wildfires to burn longer and more intensely.
Besides its harmful ability to burn down acres of valuable forests, wildfire smoke directly affects our health as humans. Once a wildfire ignites, the smoke from these flames travels thousands of miles, threatening everyone’s lungs along its toxic path. Children, elderly people, and those with pre-existing conditions all run a risk to be negatively affected by wildfire smoke in a myriad of harmful ways. Let’s explore the short-term and long-term symptoms that arise from inhaling wildfire smoke.
Dangers from Wildfire Smoke
It’s important to keep in mind that wildfire smoke is a complex mixture consisting of many pollutants that has been proven to lead to a variety of negative health conditions. While wildfires emits many dangerous pollutants, particulate matter is the most dangerous to breath in. Wildfire smoke contributes about 40% of particulate matter pollution in our atmosphere, and these microscopic specks can be smaller than 2.5 microns. Traveling through the air, these pollutants are generally a mix of liquid particles and incredibly tiny solid particles, the size of these small particles allows them to more easily lodge deep inside the human lungs.
Along with particulate matter, wildfires emit carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and many other hazardous air pollutants. All of these pollutants affect the human body in a vast amount of differing ways, making it difficult to diagnose and treat negative health symptoms brought on by wildfire smoke. It’s also been shown that, even without obvious health symptoms, significant pathological changes are happening in the lungs when an individual is exposed to this harmful smoke.
Health Symptoms Attributed to Smoke Exposure
Even among healthy individuals, breathing in wildfire smoke can be harmful enough to make anyone sick. It is true that elderly people, pregnant women, children, individuals with respiratory conditions, and individuals with heart conditions are more at-risk, everyone should still take precautions from inhaling this harmful smoke. Wildfire smoke is shown to primarily target respiratory and heart function in numerous ways, including:
- Coughing & Difficulty Breathing
- Phlegm & Wheezing
- Heart Attack
- Heart Failure
While the short term immediate effects of inhaling wildfire smoke has been heavily researched, long term effects are a bit more uncertain. It has been shown that, following heavy exposure to wildfire smoke, individuals have seen a lifelong reduction in lung function and even premature death.
Ways to Stay Safe Wildfire Smoke
One of the best ways to stay safe from wildfire smoke is by properly wearing an N95 mask. Cloth masks, bandanas, and other mask types don’t offer near the level of protection that N95 masks provide. Additionally, make sure your mask is perfectly fitted with no gaps around its perimeter, and double check that your mask is legitimate by checking the FDA-approved N95 mask label.
Besides wearing an FDA-approved N95 mask, other methods to protect yourself from wildfire smoke include:
- Check the local air quality index (AQI) before going outside.
- If the AQI is hazardous, stay indoors and try to keep your indoor air clean.
- Invest in an indoor air filter, this’ll ensure that you’re not adding to the indoor pollution.
- Wear O2 Nose Filters to protect yourself from harmful particulate matter.
- Follow your doctor’s advice about medications and ways to avoid inhaling wildfire smoke.
Pacific Medical Products
As we’ve established, masking up is one of the best ways to prevent inhaling wildfire smoke. Whether you’re looking for face masks, O2 Nose Filters, or other protective equipment, you can find all the PPE you need at Pacific Medical Products. We understand there’s a lot of concern about fake 3M masks, which is why we purchase all our 3M masks directly from two of the world’s largest 3M distributors, Medline and McKesson, who by contract only buy direct from 3M. Every mask is 100% authentic with lot numbers that can be tracked back to the manufacturer. Quality and trust are of utmost importance to us here at Pacific Medical Products. You can buy with confidence.