11:03am Tuesday 18 February 2020

Health Recommendations for Wildfire Smoke

These can be bothersome to many people, but especially so to those with compromised lungs.

“Many people may have respiratory symptoms when breathing smoky air.  The good news is that most symptoms are short-lived, and resolve as smoke dissipates,” said Karin Pacheco, MD, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at National Jewish Health.

Smoke can worsen symptoms for those who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, allergies and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  Typical symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathe normally
  • Cough with or without mucus
  • Chest discomfort
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath

Particulate laden smoke can also worsen cardiac disease.  Inhaled particles trigger the release of chemical messengers into the blood that may increase the risk of blood clots, angina episodes, heart attacks and strokes.  People with chronic cardiac conditions are more susceptible to chest pain, heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, acute congestive heart failure or stroke.

Even people without lung or cardiac disease may become symptomatic if the smoke is thick enough.

“For most healthy people, low amounts of wildfire smoke are more unpleasant than a health risk,” said Dr. Pacheco.

If wildfire smoke is triggering mild symptoms, National Jewish Health doctors recommend:

  • Take your medications as prescribed.
  • Use your rescue inhaler if your doctor has recommended one.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Limit exercise outdoors.
  • Consider leaving the area if smoke is making you sick, until the air is clear again.
  • Consult your physician if respiratory or chest symptoms become severe.

National Jewish Health 1400 Jackson St, Denver CO 80206 1.800.423.8891

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