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Last updateThu, 19 Sep 2019 12am







    Wednesday, September 18, 2019-5:22:18A.M.






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Wildfire smoke is harmful to your health

WITH the recent wildfire on Mount Tapochao, this is a good time to remind the public of the risk of wildfire smoke to your health.

Why is wildfire smoke bad for my health?

Wildfire smoke is a combination of gases and fine particles from the trees and other plant materials that burned. The smoke can irritate your eyes, nose, and make your lungs and heart conditions much worse. The amount and length of exposure to the smoke, as well as your age and medical conditions, will dictate how at risk you are of complications from the wildfire smoke.

Who is most likely to be affected by wildfire smoke?

Wildfire smoke can worsen symptoms for those with lung and heart conditions, and those who are especially sensitive to air pollution. Those in the sensitive groups include:

  • • People with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • • People with heart disease
  • • Elderly people
  • • Infants and children
  • • Pregnant women
  • • Smokers, especially those who have smoked for a long time

How can I tell if wildfire smoke is affecting me or my family?

Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause the following:

  • • Watery or dry eyes
  • • Coughing
  • • Wheezing
  • • Scratchy throat
  • • Headaches
  • • Shortness of breath
  • • Irregular heart beat
  • • Chest pain
  • • Asthma/lung irritation

What should I do if I am having a medical problem from the wildfire smoke?

If you are experiencing any symptoms due to the smoke, please seek medical attention with your doctor or, if in a medical emergency, go to the CHCC emergency department.

Here are strategies to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke:

  • • If you have consistent access to air conditioning, stay indoors as much as possible with the doors and windows closed
  • • Use a high-efficiency (HEPA) air-cleaning filter, if you have one
  • • Avoid vacuuming, which can stir up more dust
  • • When driving in your car, keep windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate
  • • Drink plenty of water to help with symptoms of scratchy throat and coughing
  • • Move away from the area with the smoke, especially if you have underlying lung or heart diseases that can be worse from exposure to the smoke

Will a wet towel, bandana or dust mask help with the smoke?

Most likely not. The towel, bandana, and dust mask can stop the large particles, but not the fine, small ones that can get into the lungs and cause irritation.

For more information, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informational website on wildfire smoke:

For more information about CHCC programs, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter at @cnmichcc, check out our website at, or call us at 234-8950.

The writer is medical director of public health, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.-Division of Public Health Services