Wildfires are events that create a serious impact on the environment and the respiratory health of many, especially for those suffering from chronic respiratory issues.
California is in the middle of a wildfire crisis as at present there are nearly 17 major wildfires burning throughout the state. We are hitting the peak of fire season, and it is reported that already this year has seen millions of acres of land and thousands of structures destroyed. These unfortunate events are causing residents to flee from their homes and lose everything ultimately forcing them to start over.
It is also reported that smoke from the wildfires now affects three-quarters of the state.
The situation is creating a serious impact on our environment, affecting wildlife, flora, and soil. The fires also produce heavy pollution; sending millions of gases into our atmosphere and creating a very serious impact on our health, The most vulnerable groups are children, the elderly, cardiovascular patients, those suffering from respiratory diseases as well as those who are on the ground helping to combat.
The effects of these fires on the respiratory health of the populations are very penalizing, causing inflammatory processes of the whole airway (pharynx, larynx, trachea, and bronchi), bronchial and pulmonary infections and decompensation of pre-existing respiratory diseases (asthma, bronchiectasis, COPD, and others).
Particularly affected are patients with chronic respiratory failure.
Thus, all those who breathe polluted air from wildfires (rich in carbon oxides, sulfur and nitrogen, volatile organic compounds and respirable particles), but especially those suffering from respiratory diseases, should take the following precautionary steps:
10 tips for a better breathing
- If you can, leave the area where the fire is unfolding.
- Avoid inhalation of smoke using respiratory protective equipment like a mask. If you do not have a mask, use whatever you have on hand, for example, a damp cloth (Note: Masks used to protect from dust are not effective in protecting your lungs from gases and many of the fine particles of smoke.)
- Stay as close to the ground as possible, where the heat and smoke are less intense.
- Do not let the smoke enter your room. Close the windows, caulk the edging, and only ventilate after the problem is resolved.
- Avoid staying outdoors, reduce your physical activity and drink liquids.
- Avoid smoking and try to avoid other toxic products such as paints, varnishes, detergents or disinfectants, and do not light candles or any gas or wood-burning appliance as this will decrease the oxygen in your home. Avoid anything that contributes to increased pollution in the home.
- If your home has an air purification system, you should use it. If you have air conditioning, you should choose the option of air recirculation, thus preventing the outside air from entering the house, and being careful to check that the filters are clean.
- When using your vehicle, keep the windows and the vents closed; if the vehicle is air-conditioned, turn it to recirculation mode to prevent outside air from entering the vehicle.
- If you are under respiratory treatment, strictly follow the advice that has been provided by your doctor. Always have your emergency medication at hand.
- If your health deteriorates, seek immediate help at your closest hospital or doctors office.
Portuguese Lung Foundation