Wildfire Smoke And Your Health
By: Chad Borys ND, LAc
The National Weather Service has currently listed the air quality in the Columbia Gorge as “unhealthy” given the wildfire ash and smoke in the air. The smoke which is primarily from the Eagle Creek Fire is a mixture of gases and other fine particles from burned plants that can be harmful to inhale. In individuals with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, or in sensitive groups like children and the elderly, smoke can be an even bigger health concern.
For those affected, there are numerous things we can do to help protect our health and the health of our community.
- Limit your exposure to the smoke. Stay indoors when possible. Keep the windows and doors closed to limit outside air exchange. If possible, use a HEPA filter in your home to keep the air clean. Also, when driving keep the windows closed and make sure the air conditioning is set to recirculate the air.
- Drink plenty of water. Water helps to moisten the mucus membranes lining the nasal passageways and lungs and can help the body to limit your exposure and protect your health.
- Avoid additional sources of indoor air pollution. Limit your use of candles, synthetic chemicals, and air fresheners which can further pollute indoor air quality. Also, avoid smoking indoors.
- Limit driving. Driving is a major source of air pollution and can further exacerbate the air quality.
- If you must open your windows, be aware of local air reports. Air quality reports are readily available through through numerous agencies, including airnow.gov and the National Weather Service. These reports can help you determine if air quality is safe enough to open your windows.
- Eat a diet loaded with leafy greens and veggies. Leafy greens and veggies are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients to help your body deal with the added stress of poor air quality. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli have been shown to help reduce the inflammation associated with airborne pollution.
- Limit outdoor exercise. While exercise is generally a great way to support the body, exercising outdoors with poor air quality could be harmful for your health. Keep exercising, but consider indoor routines, or going to a gym.
- Consider getting a respirator if you need to be outside. You will need a respirator labeled "N95", which will help filter out smoke particles from the air you breath. These mask are available through the Klickitat County Health Department, and local hardware stores but need to be properly fitted to be effective.
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