October 5, 2020
With the wildfires raging in California, an increased amount of smoke and other pollutants have infiltrated the air. This has caused the air to become more toxic, resulting in a host of respiratory problems for many.
Several of the 40 million California residents have been affected in some way by the smoke, which has prevented people from being able to participate in their usual outdoor or strenuous activities. This is because the smoke and other toxic particles in the air can irritate people’s respiratory systems, block oxygen inhalation, and weaken immune systems. These effects can make someone more susceptible to other illnesses, such as COVID-19.
by Chelsea Chang, Jessica Conley, and Maya Kornyeyeva
The effects are even worse for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. According to the American Lung Association, the wildfires’ smoke can cause severe harm to those in at-risk categories. The pollutants in the air can cause asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes, all of which can cause severe implications, and in some cases, death.
Because of the severity of these issues, it is beneficial to be aware of some of the signs of smoke inhalation, regardless of whether you have existing conditions or not. Symptoms for both groups include coughing and chest pain, trouble breathing, stinging eyes, irritated throat, fatigue, and headaches. Being aware of these symptoms, as well as taking other precautions, can help eliminate the health risks people can encounter.
One simple way to avoid overexertion in dangerous smoke levels is to check the Air Quality Index (AQI) before going outside. The AQI gives a rough estimate of the air quality in a given location, with an AQI of 50 and under considered healthy.
However, the AQI given by the standard weather app on your phone can often be inaccurate. Whether the AQI is purposefully misleading or not, people who rely on this app may falsely perceive the air quality as better than it really is.
Some reliable sources for the AQI include PiCO Home, which is an air quality monitor that can be used at home. Furthermore, there are other websites you can use to compare air qualities, such as PurpleAir. Ultimately, it’s best to use personal judgment on whether it seems safe to go outside.
If you decide to go outside, there are a few ways you can lessen the effects of the smoky air. For instance, avoid smoking any substances that could irritate the lungs, such as cigarettes and vape pens. Furthermore, if you can, wear an N-95 mask when outside, as these can help filter out harmful particles in the air before they enter your lungs.
Even if indoors, smoke particles can permeate the air. To stay safe while at home, consider purchasing an air purifier to filter out toxins and other pollutants in the air. Also, activities like vacuuming, which can stir up particles in a room, should be avoided, and the use of candles and similar products should be limited.
Smoke can be a deadly consequence of wildfires and can cause numerous health complications. By being proactive and taking precautionary measures, people can minimize their risk of being affected.