When thinking about the hazards of wildfires, images of fleeing your house as a blazing inferno approaches quickly may easily fill your mind. Smoke inhalation, on the other hand, is the leading cause of mortality from wildfires.
Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of mortality in wildfires. Smoke inhalation is responsible for 50 to 80 percent of fire deaths.
Inhaling smoke causes one or both of the following health problems:
- by suffocating it
- as a result of discomfort from particle matter
What’s in the ash after a forest fire?
Wildfire smoke is made up of hundreds of different chemicals, including hazardous particles and gases that represent a serious health danger to anybody who lives close or downwind of a fire.
Particulate matter is the major contaminant endangering the health of individuals living close and downwind of a wildfire. Wildfire smoke contains a lot of tiny and ultra-fine particles. The biggest danger to your health comes from these small airborne particles.
Ultra-fine particles, which account for 90% of all airborne particles, are the most hazardous. Because these particles are so small, they may be absorbed right into your circulation. They can reach any organ or part of your body once they are in your blood.
Smoke from wildfires and at-risk populations
The majority of healthy individuals will recover from their exposure to smoking. However, certain people are more vulnerable to serious health effects, such as young children. Children with growing lungs, regardless of whether they have a pre-existing disease, are regarded more susceptible.
- Women who are expecting to give birth to a kid. Pregnant women and their unborn infants are more vulnerable to wildfire smoke inhalation than the general population.
- Adults in their later years. Due to an elevated prevalence of pre-existing heart and lung illness, this group is at danger.
- Anyone who is sick with a respiratory infection. Emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory diseases put them at risk.
- People who have a heart problem. High blood pressure, vascular disorders, heart failure, and cerebrovascular problems are all examples of circulatory ailments. Heart attacks, acute chest discomfort, heart failure, stroke, and sudden death from cardiac arrhythmia are all risks associated with these diseases.
- Young children, pregnant women, elderly individuals, and those with pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular problems may have more severe symptoms and find it more difficult to breathe.
Smoke from wildfires has certain properties
Many factors influence the behavior of wildfire smoke, including:
The stage of the fire, the weather, the physical topography, and the wind.
Wildfire safety tips
Wildfire smoke occurrences may strike apparently out of nowhere. However, there are actions you can do to prepare yourself for wildfires by taking necessary safety precautions.
- Keep your home’s air quality in good shape. Keep windows and doors closed and cover any openings to the outside, including vents, to help prevent external smoke from entering. If you’re using an air conditioner, make sure it’s set to re-circulate and the fresh-air inlet is closed. When ventilating the space, filter the air. The AC filter for wildfire smoke will help reduce ozone levels and remove smoke particles as small as 0.003 microns from the air inside your home.
- If you live in a city that is in the line of a wildfire, this is extremely critical (even if it is just a few miles away).
- As much as possible, stay inside. This strategy is particularly successful in structures that effectively exclude outside air from entering. Use a car air purifier to assist keep your vehicle interior air pure while you pass through smoky or polluted areas if you need to leave or escape an area affected by wildfire smoke. Where alternative air filtration devices are not accessible, you can use a portable, personal air purifier to get clean air.
Outside, wear a mask. To help, just wear a N95, KN95, N100, or FFP2 rated air pollution mask.
- Avoid actions that contribute to indoor air pollution. Unless you have a high-performance HEPA vacuum cleaner, avoid burning candles, using the fireplace, or even cleaning. All of these tasks might become additional sources of indoor air pollution if they are not done properly.
- Consult visibility guides in your area. The quantity of particles in the air is measured by sensors in some localities. Some governments and municipalities have criteria for determining if there are excessive levels of particles in the air based on how far they can see.
- If you have asthma or another lung illness, listen to your doctor or other healthcare provider when it comes to medications and your respiratory management plan. If you’re having problems breathing, consider evacuation. If your symptoms worsen, get medical help.
- Get out of the way of wildfires. Listen to the news for the most up-to-date information on current evacuation orders. Follow local officials’ advice on when and where to evacuate. Only bring what you really need. Prepare for heavy traffic by following the authorized evacuation routes–others may be shut.