“The winds have carried smoke miles away to cities across the state,” says Dr. J.P. Maganito, a medical director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana. “Everyone may begin to or have experienced some health problems, and people with certain health conditions could experience more serious health threats.”
Dr. Maganito says that wildfires carry significant amounts of toxic respiratory irritants, such as formaldehyde and acrolein, that can trigger asthma attacks and respiratory illnesses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure can cause chest pain, a fast heartbeat and wheezing, and it can bring on an asthma attack. Besides coughing and trouble breathing, many people experience symptoms similar to a sinus infection, such as headaches, sore throat, a runny nose and even tiredness.
The elderly, pregnant women, children and those with chronic heart and lung diseases are at higher risk.
The CDC website gives detailed steps for protecting yourself from wildfire smoke. The CDC also provides special instructions for people who must evacuate, pregnant women, infants and small children, and those with heart and lung disease.
As wildfires give off more and more smoke, it’s important to protect your health and take simple steps to reduce exposure to smoke and particle pollution:
- Avoid prolonged outdoor exposure.
- Change your clothes if you’ve been outside because smoke and fire particles can cling to your clothing.
- Rinse out red, irritated eyes, and wipe face and eyelashes with a wet cloth.
- Drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated.
- Follow your doctor’s advice and take prescribed medicines if you have asthma or other lung diseases.
- Seek emergency care for children and the elderly if they experience difficulty breathing or a change in their level of consciousness.
There are many resources available for understanding the risks to your health and what you can do to minimize health problems. These include:
- Wildfire Smoke and Your Health, seven tips to help protect your health, Montana Department of Health and Human Services
- Real-time wildfire smoke updates, Montana Department of Environmental Quality Montana (DEQ)
- Today’s Air, air quality readings, Montana DEQ
- Air Quality Index Guide for Particle Pollution, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Air Quality Index, EPA
Share with others.
Please share this information with your family and friends —both those near the fires and others who could be affected by drifting smoke.
Source: Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017