With the current forest fire outbreaks around the world, let’s examine how wildfire smoke can affect your health.
Wildfire smoke releases a number of pollutants that irritate our lungs. For example, particle pollution found in smoke can lodge itself deep within our lungs, causing asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Wildfires also release carbon monoxide. The inhalation of carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous, as it reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the cells in your body. This can lead to headaches, nausea, difficulty breathing or death.
For people with an underlying lung disease, the effects of smoke inhalation are more extreme. Let’s take a look at some of the more common lung disorders and how wildfire smoke can affect people with these conditions.
Asthma is a common condition which causes breathing difficulties. This due to the narrowing and swelling of the airways caused by inflammation. For those affected by asthma, smoke inhalation can trigger and exacerbate asthmas attacks.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory lung disease which makes breathing difficult. Specifically, COPD causes the bronchi and alveoli to lose the elasticity of their walls. This means that when you breathe in, the bronchi and alveoli over-expand, causing air to become trapped in your lungs when you exhale. Breathing in smoke can worsen COPD.
When the bronchi of your respiratory system become infected, this is known as bronchitis. The infected airways become swollen and produce increased amounts of mucus, causing you to cough. Again, smoke inhalation further worsens bronchitis, making it difficult to breathe.
It is therefore important to protect your lungs from inhaling wildfire smoke, whether you have an underlying disease or not. Check your local resources to find out more about how you can avoid forest fire smoke inhalation.