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Experts Urge Those with Asthma to Protect Against Smoke from Wildfires

Experts Urge Those with Asthma to Protect Against Smoke from Wildfires

Allergists say stay indoors as smoke from fires can damage respiratory system

June 2023 – When wildfires burn across the U.S., or even when the wildfires are in Canada and the smoke filters down and spreads across a large portion of the country, those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma need to be alert to the effects of smoke on their breathing.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) points out it’s important for everyone – but especially children and those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses – to stay indoors in order to not be exposed to smoke from the fires.

According to ACAAI, smoke from fires is a dangerous irritant to the eyes and respiratory system. It can make heart conditions and lung diseases like asthma worse. Children are especially vulnerable because their lungs are less developed, and they are closer to the ground, and thus more likely to take in more smoke.

If you smell smoke, you should do your best to stay inside. If you have asthma, make sure you are keeping it under control with proper use of your medications, and consult your allergist if are having difficulty breathing. Know that if you are still able to grocery shop, you should buy groceries you won’t need to cook. Frying or grilling can make indoor air pollution even worse.

If you must go outside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you should not rely on dust masks or cloth masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores trap large particles like sawdust. They aren’t useful against smoke. In addition, the cloth masks many people use as a safeguard from COVID-19 will not protect your lungs from smoke. An N95 mask, properly worn, will offer some protection.

For those near areas where wildfires are burning, be sure to always have a supply of your asthma medications ready to go with you. For those who need to evacuate from home and go to a shelter, be sure to let officials know about anyone in your family who has asthma.

Once the wildfires and smoke have been controlled, continue to watch for any asthma symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider if you have trouble breathing, shortness of breath, a cough that won’t stop, or other symptoms that do not go away. Call 9-1-1 or go right away to an emergency department for medical emergencies.

ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy, and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit Join us on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.