For decades, communities across the United States have endured the warmest summer on record. The summer of 2022 has broken heat records across the country, despite the fact that rising temperatures have been an issue for years. Wildfires have already erupted in numerous states, including California, Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon, as a result of the extreme heat. This year’s wildfire season follows one that set records across the western United States last summer.
Wildfires pose a health risk as well as a property risk to the people who live in these regions. Lung capacity decreases when the air is thick with smoke. Because of these enormous flames, the air we breathe might be polluted, which can affect how well we sleep. As the West continues to experience increasingly hot and dry weather as a result of human-caused climate change, it’s critical to understand how wildfires may affect your ability to get a good night’s rest.
Why Wildfire Smoke Is Dangerous
Our lungs can be seriously damaged by smoke from wildfires. Particulate matter and hydrocarbons are both respiratory irritants in smoke, but ultrafine particles ingested during a fire provide the greatest risk. Nasal congestion and itchy, burning eyes are both possible side effects of inhaling these tiny particles. Wildfires, unlike other types of smoke, emit thousands of airborne compounds — many of which are toxic — making them more hazardous than other types of smoke. Toxic chemicals can spread across hundreds of miles, even if you are not directly near the fire.
Everyone’s response to wildfire smoke inhalation is unique, as are our health and sleep, although the CDC indicates that certain populations are more at risk than others:
- The aged, as well as those with preexisting heart or lung conditions
- Airways are developing in children, allowing them to inhale more air per unit mass than adults.
Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you
Even though your sensitivity to wildfire smoke differs from others, it’s best to avoid inhaling it if at all possible. As if that wasn’t awful enough, the smoke from wildfires can have a negative impact on everyone.
During the combustion of wood and other organic materials, smoke is formed as a complicated mixture of gases and tiny particles. The fine particulates in smoking pose the greatest danger to one’s health. It is possible for these small particles to enter your lungs. Chronic heart and lung disorders can be exacerbated, as can a variety of other health issues, such as burning eyes and a runny nose. Premature death has been linked to particle pollution exposure.
Some people are more at risk
If you’re near a fire, it’s extremely critical that you pay attention to local air quality reports.
- someone who has a heart or lung ailment, such as heart failure, angina, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, or asthma.
- an older adult, which makes you more prone to suffer heart or lung problems than younger ones.
- Because their respiratory systems are still maturing, children and teenagers breathe more air (and pollution) per pound of bodyweight than adults, and they are more prone to engage in physical activity outside, pediatric asthma patients require special attention.
- A diabetic because you are more likely to have underlying heart disease.
- if you’re a woman who is or will be pregnant because there are risks to both you and the unborn child.
How to tell if smoke is affecting you
Smoke inhalation can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
- It’s possible for anyone to have burning eyes and runny nose and cough, phlegm, and wheezing.
- Smoking can exacerbate the symptoms of heart and lung illness.
- Chest pain, palpitations, breathlessness, and exhaustion are all symptoms of heart disease in people.
- Coughing, phlegm, chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath are all common symptoms in people with lung illness who are unable to breathe as deeply or violently as they normally can.
If you’re at risk for particle-related symptoms, it’s critical to limit your exposure to smoke. The following are some ways you may safeguard your health:
Consult your doctor if you suffer from any type of heart, vascular, or respiratory problems, such as asthma.
If you live in a fire-prone area, get ready for the fire season.
Prepare ahead of time if you suffer from heart, vascular, or lung illness (including asthma), such as hypertension. In the event that you suffer from asthma, be sure to go over your asthma action plan and how much medicine to bring with you.
Stock up on nonperishable, no-cook items for a few days in advance. Pollution from cooking, particularly frying and broiling, can increase the indoor air quality in the home.
Think about investing in an air purifier.
Particle levels within your home can be reduced with the use of certain room air cleaners, provided they are the proper type and size for your rooms, according to the manufacturer. Decide to get an air purifier now rather than wait until there’s an emergency to do so. Note: Avoid using an ozone-producing air cleaner. Your home will get more contaminated as a result of this.
Stock up on N-95 and P-100 face masks and become familiar with their proper application.
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Many hardware and home improvement stores carry them, and you may also buy them online.
Consult your doctor if you suffer from any type of heart, vascular, or respiratory problems, such as asthma.
During a fire
Check the air quality in your area regularly. As the level of smoke in the area increases, so should the precautions you take to keep yourself safe. Local news media, your local air agency, or airnow.gov provide regular updates on the quality of the air in your area.
Be guided by your common sense.
Even if you don’t have a monitor in your neighborhood, it’s generally not a good idea to mow the lawn or go for a jog if the weather is smokey. In addition, it’s usually not a good idea for children – especially children with asthma – to engage in strenuous outdoor activities for long periods of time at this time. Pay heed to your body’s signals if you’re spending time outside. Any signs of illness are a sign that you should decrease your exposure.
A dust mask is not sufficient.
Masking your lungs with “dust” masks or surgical masks won’t keep you safe from wildfire smoke’s small particles. In either case, scarves or bandanas (wet or dry) are not going to aid you. N-95 or P-100 respirators can help, but only if they fit properly and are used correctly. Many hardware and home improvement stores carry them, and you may also buy them online.
Indoor air should be as pure as possible if you’re told to stay inside. Unless it’s blazingly hot outside, keep your windows and doors closed. If you have an air conditioner, turn it on. To avoid bringing in more smoke, keep the filter clean. When the air quality improves, open the windows to allow fresh air to circulate through the house. Keep in mind that remaining inside with the windows closed in excessively hot weather can be harmful if you don’t have an air conditioner. If this is the case, you should look for another place to stay, such as with family or in a facility with better ventilation.
If you’ve been prescribed medication, follow your doctor’s instructions.
Particles in the air should be kept at a lower level.
Despite the fact that small particles are difficult to see, smoke can accumulate indoors for extended periods of time. Even candles can pose a fire hazard if they’re left unattended for too long. Vacuuming is a waste of time. As a result, particles already present in your house are agitated. Also, refrain from using tobacco products. You and the people around you will inhale even more pollutants as a result.
Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor and stick to your asthma action plan if you have asthma or another lung illness. Keep five days’ worth of medication on hand at all times. If your symptoms worsen, make an appointment with your doctor right once.
If you have heart disease, make an appointment with your doctor if your symptoms worsen or if you have any questions. Dial 9-1-1 if you suspect a heart attack or stroke is imminent.
How Smoke Affects Your Sleep
An international study found that air pollution is the biggest cause of global illness burden and is tied for fifth place in terms of death risk. In addition, the World Health Organization estimates that ambient air pollution is responsible for the deaths of 4.2 million people around the world each year.
The central nervous system can be damaged by long-term exposure to intense air pollution, which can be exacerbated by the smoke from these huge wildfires. The frontal cortex and cerebellum, two regions of the brain that help humans sleep, are infiltrated by these air particles. These areas of the brain are susceptible to inflammation, which can lead to constrictions of the airways in the throat and nose.
It’s been found that elevated levels of despair and anxiety — two frequent causes of insomnia — are exacerbated by air pollution. Residents of Western towns and cities may experience mental health issues as a result of their communities being threatened by wildfires.
For those living in high-risk areas, exposure to excessive levels of smoke can cause a variety of health problems. It is essential to know how to identify them in order to avoid major harm:
- Eyes that are on fire.
- difficulties inhaling or exhaling
It’s crucial to be aware of these symptoms if you live in a high-risk area and are experiencing them, even if they could be caused by other disorders or illnesses. If you’re experiencing allergy-like symptoms after being exposed to wildfire smoke, go to your doctor.
Wildfire Smoke and Your Sleep
As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with sleep. Smoke from wildfires significantly raises air pollution levels. If there is a wildfire in the area, the air quality is so bad that it’s unsafe to go outside at all. Smoke particles can harm your brain as well as your airways and lungs. Long-term exposure to high air pollution can actually harm your central nervous system, or CNS, over time.
Protect your property by assessing how well your residence is protected from the outside environment. Smoke inhalation can have a negative impact on your health, so it’s best to prevent it:
- You should keep your windows shut and turn off any continuous ventilation systems that bring in fresh air without filtration.
- Keep an eye on the seals on all of your windows and doors.
- Get an air filtration system that will keep your home’s air free of harmful particles.
- Keep your family and pets safe by remaining indoors.
Tips to Sleep Better
There’s a good probability you’re anxious if you’re in the path of a wildfire. You’re frightened for your family and friends since the air is thick with smoke. Put your sleep first at this difficult period. The more rest you get, the better equipped you will be to help out when the time arises.
Take a few moments to wind down and unwind before going to bed. Anything from reading a book to taking a bath could be included here. Doing some breathing exercises or listening to a guided meditation can be beneficial.
Go to bed as soon as you’ve settled down. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, leave your phone at the door. While you’re trying to get some shut-eye, avoid checking your email or social media accounts.
Get up and do something soothing for a few minutes if you’re having trouble falling asleep. Go back to bed and try again when you are less fatigued.
Sound Sleep Medical
In addition to making it difficult to sleep, stress and bad air quality can have a significant impact on your general health and ability to sleep at night. If you or someone you care about has been exposed to smoke from a wildfire, keep an eye on your own and your own health. Don’t smoke indoors, and spend as little time as possible outside. See a doctor right away if you’re having difficulty breathing or are experiencing shortness of breath.
Protecting Yourself From Wildfire Smoke
It’s critical to have a good night’s sleep, but if there’s a nearby wildfire, you need also consider how the outside environment impacts your home’s interior. In order to protect your home from harmful air pollution, there are a number of things you may do.
- Close all windows and turn off any ventilation systems that are on all the time. Your home’s materials and surfaces gently remove wildfire smoke toxins from the air. The elimination process can be accelerated by reducing the rate at which air pollutants are emitted.
- Invest in a filtering system for your home. A home air filter may considerably enhance the quality of the air in your home, whether it is a forced-air system or a stand-alone device. Recent guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) give useful information on home air cleaning technology.
- Your system should be running in “fan on” mode at all times. Air can be circulated through the ducts and filters without being heated or cooled in “fan” mode, which is common in modern systems. There may be a “fan setting” control on some older thermostats that allows you to choose between “auto” and “on.” Selecting “on” will turn the light on.
Over the last decade, wildfires have risen in size and scope, exposing an increasing number of people to hazardous levels of smoke. People in the impacted areas should keep an eye on their symptoms, take precautions in their homes, and seek medical attention if they experience difficulty breathing.
How do smoke and wildfires affect air quality?
Wildfires not only harm the ecology and climate, but they also have an impact on air quality and pose a health risk to the people living nearby. Particles and chemicals abound in the smoke created by wildfires, the composition of which is determined by the fuel consumed, the amount of oxygen present, and the smoke’s temperature. In any case, all smoke contains the following elements:
- Carburetor exhaust
- Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless
- Material that has been broken down into smaller pieces called “soot”
The eyes, nose, and throat can be irritated by even a brief contact with wildfire smoke. Additionally, you may experience nausea and decreased lung function. Inhaling carbon monoxide can lead to headaches and a loss of alertness since it depletes the body’s supply of oxygen. Respiratory discomfort and shortness of breath can result from inhaling fine particles, which are 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter and are invisible to the naked eye. The consequences of fine particle inhalation might last for days or even cause bronchitis in some people.
Avoid Adding to Indoor Pollution
Indoor air pollution can be exacerbated by cooking. Make a stock of nonperishables and foods that don’t need to be cooked instead of frying or broiling them. Don’t do anything that will agitate the air, such as vacuuming or dusting. Don’t light up or do anything that could be harmful to yourself.
Try an Air Cleaner
Clean air from an air cleaner can assist in reducing the amount of pollution in your home. This is especially critical during times of high pollution in the air.
Wear N95 Respirator Masks
You may want to wear an N-95 or P-100 respirator to protect your lungs from fine particles. To be successful, they need to be worn properly, with the proper amount of tightness around the waist and hips. On the internet, you may find them in hardware and home improvement stores.
Stay inside if the air quality is so bad that smoke can’t get in. Except in extreme heat, keep the windows and doors closed. If you’re experiencing worsening symptoms, don’t do any outside exercise for long periods of time.