Fire Season can feel like a way of life
The increasing number of high-intensity wildfires in California and across the world are affecting millions of people, threatening lives and property, and raising a multitude of health risk concerns.
Wildfires send smoke, soot, toxic gases and tiny particles into the air. Once released into the atmosphere, these materials can be carried for hundreds of miles and affect communities far outside the fire danger zone.
Before the rapid industrialization of the previous centuries, smoke once contained only the remnants of biomass (trees and other organic matter). Today’s fires also burn man-made structures containing thousands of synthetic chemicals, asbestos, paints, plastics, and metals that smolder and combust into tiny particles. This is often referred to as particle pollution. Sometimes these particles are visible to the human eye and might make the air appear hazy. Often, however, they might not be detectable at all by the naked eye.
When inhaled, these compounds can be very harmful and may injure the lungs, causing cellular damage and fluid buildup in the areas around the lung tissues. When smoke enters the lungs, it triggers a defense mechanism that involves the release of chemicals called cytokines, which induce inflammation via oxidative damage. The initial inflammation of cells that line the lungs may be small, but it can lead to a body-wide inflammatory response. As a result, people exposed to particle pollution may develop an increased susceptibility to infections, and individuals with allergies may have worsened allergic reactions.
Small particulate matter enters the lungs and may cause significant respiratory symptoms. The particulate matter is also small enough to pass through the lung tissue and enter the bloodstream.
When the air quality is good, the small particulate matter levels are usually around 10 to 15 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3), but wildfires can increase this harmful pollutant to levels above 200 ug/m3.
Health problems related to wildfire smoke exposure can be as mild as respiratory tract irritation, headaches, and irritation of the eye, nasal, sinus, or throat. However, wildfire smoke exposure can lead to more serious adverse health reactions such as declining heart and lung function (including asthma), and even premature death.
What you can do
In heavy smoke exposure you should wear an N-95 disposable particulate respirator mask.
As smoke causes inflammation via oxidative damage, it is especially important to protect your immune system function with antioxidants.
Folic Acid, Vitamins B6 and B12
Vitamins C, E and D3
Herbs: Green tea, ginger, and turmeric
Schedule Your Appointment Today
Want to look deeper into your immune and respiratory health, inflammation and detoxification? Dr. Charny can work with you to address your concerns.