Protecting Yourself from Wildfire Smoke

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Wildfire smoke exposure is a current threat to many in California. One of the largest dangers with wildfire smoke exposure is the inhalation of particulate matter (PM). These are noxious tiny particles that measure less than 2.5 microns (1/5 the size of pollen!). Exposure to this particulate matter may impair the immune system by altering the function of T-cells, an important component of our immune system.

Common symptoms of exposure include:

  • Cough or shortness of breath

  • Scratchy or sore throat

  • Chest pain

  • Burning or watery eyes

  • Headache

  • Runny nose

  • Increased heart rate (>100 bpm)

  • Difficulty breathing normally

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, and are in a high-risk group (age over 65, young child, history of breathing disorders like asthma, compromised immune system), please head to the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility for further evaluation.

If you are not in a high-risk group and have been exposed, the following are steps you can take to help your body manage the exposure:

  • Wear a PM95 respirator mask when outside for more than 10 minutes. If you have underlying lung/immune conditions like asthma or allergies, wear at all times when outside. These can easily be found at CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, etc.

  • Drink at least 90 oz. of filtered water daily. You can also include tea in this total! Matcha will provide additional antioxidants, marshmallow root is great for a scratchy throat, and peppermint tea provides support for your respiratory system.

  • Increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidant foods: ginger, turmeric, garlic, dark leafy greens, green tea, fatty fish, cranberries, wild blueberries, elderberry, and pecans.

  • Take Epsom salt baths at night as the magnesium will help to calm your nerves and assist in detoxing environmental toxins. You can also spend time in a sauna or infrared sauna to increase your detoxification.

  • Use a Neti Pot or Saline Rinse to reduce congestion and improve symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and dry nasal passages.

Stay safe and stay healthy, California friends!