Slowly the wildfires across the country are being contained and extinguished. Hundreds of Colorado firefighters continue to battle the flames and prevent further evacuations. Thunderstorms in Colorado, as well as Montana, have aided with control efforts.
But despite the efforts of local and national emergency services, a great deal of damage has already been done. Thousands of acres of land in multiple states are diminished to smolders. Thousands of people have lost their homes.
Hundreds of thousands of people have had their air quality compromised. Though the smoke is beginning to clear in many areas, cities such as Seattle suffered from such grave air quality conditions that breathing in outside air was compared to smoking cigarettes.
These are the five potential dangers of inhaling wildfire smoke.
In areas close to wildfires, smoke can become so thick that it is difficult to breathe. You should limit outdoor activities in order to prevent labored breathing as well as to prevent breathing in toxic chemicals and other toxins in the smoky air. Labored breathing can make simple tasks difficult, such as basic yard work or even walking longer distances such as a trip to school or around an outdoor shopping mall.
Individuals with heart disease, chest pain, lung disease or asthma are higher risks during times of compromised air quality. The smoke can make breathing difficult but can also worsen chronic illnesses. It is important to stay indoors, keep necessary inhalers on hand and consult your doctor if you have any personal concerns. If you experience chest pains, shortness of breath, wheezing or chest discomfort, contact your doctor immediately.
Because their airways are still developing, children breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. They are also more likely to spend time playing outdoors. It is important to monitor your children’s breathing, and if they are old enough, educate them about the risk of wildfires. Try to brainstorm fun indoor activities to limit their exposure to smokey conditions.
Just because you don’t have a chronic illness or you aren’t a child doesn’t mean you are safe from the wildfire smoke. In fact, wildfire smoke affects everyone. People living in highly affected areas will likely suffer from itchy, red eyes and sore throats. In order to stay as healthy as possible, try to remain indoors and keep indoor air clean. Simple tasks such as replacing the filter on your AC unit or avoiding using gas stoves and ovens will help maintain quality air in your home. Simple tasks such as vacuuming can actually stir up ash that has entered your home, so avoid vacuuming as well.
We always like to remind you that your pets need just as much care during emergency situations as you do. Poor air quality also affects your pet’s health, so make sure you take the necessary steps to protect their lungs as well. This means limiting the amount of time they spend outside whether it is to exercise or go to the bathroom. Instead of taking them for long walks outdoors, try to find a nearby indoor dog park so they still get their daily dose of exercise while keeping their lungs smoke free.
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