Maybe you don't need us to tell you this, but: there's a lot going in the world right now. While our country grapples with COVID-19, the West Coast is on fire, cocooned in a thick blanket of smoke under an eerie red sky. Air Quality Index numbers are, quite literally, off the charts in both rural and major cities across the Pacific coast.
With smoke levels in and beyond the hazardous zone, you're bound to have questions about how the air quality affects your health. To give you some peace of mind and tips on reducing exposure risk, we sat down with ZOOM+Care provider Alijica Gonzales.
Symptom severity can vary, but common symptoms include a scratchy throat, nasal and eye irritation, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and chest pain.
Individuals with preexisting lung and heart conditions, the elderly, and pregnant women are at higher risk for complications. Children are also at a higher risk because they breathe more air per pound of bodyweight than adults.
Finally, the longer you are exposed to pollutants from smoke, the higher your risk of developing smoke-related illnesses.
Firstly, avoid outdoor exposure as much as possible. Exercise indoors when possible. Keep all doors and windows closed, and consider applying weather sealing if you detect smoke leaking in.
Do not add to indoor air pollution: avoid lighting candles, smoking, vacuuming, and using your fireplace.
As a last resort, consider seeking shelter elsewhere—especially if you are at high risk for complications.
The above remedies are unlikely to improve actual air quality, but they may temporarily alleviate minor smoke exposure symptoms.
To improve the air quality in your home, try these tips:
If you're told to stay indoors, do so! Stay informed and monitor air quality indexes closely in your area. Know the symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure, and seek care if you're worried.
Minor symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, throat, nasal and eye irritation should gradually resolve as air quality improves.
If you have severe chest pain symptoms, shortness of breath, cough, rapid heart rate, or dizziness, you should immediately call 911 or the nearest emergency facility.
If you're feeling off, or just worried, there is no harm in consulting your healthcare provider. Often, evaluation and medical guidance can bring much-needed reassurance.
It’s natural to feel worried, but the wildfires in our region will only temporarily affect the air quality. Long-term physical effects are unlikely.
Feeling anxious is a normal human reaction. Even in stressful situations, it's important to try to find the positive in any situation. Consider turning anxious energy into ways to connect and help others in your community who are likely to be feeling the same way.