What you should know about wildfire smoke

August 12, 2013 

Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. It can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.

Smoke can cause:

- Coughing

- A scratchy throat

- Irritated sinuses

- Shortness of breath

- Chest pain

- Headaches

- Stinging eyes

- A runny nose

- Asthma exacerbations

If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse. People who have heart disease might experience:

- Chest pain

- Rapid heartbeat

- Shortness of breath

- Fatigue

Smoke may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in the following ways:

- Inability to breathe normally

- Cough with or without mucus

- Chest discomfort

- Wheezing and shortness of breath

When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience some of these symptoms.

Know whether you are at risk

If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems than healthy people.

Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people.

Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.

What you can do

When the air quality index is between 101 and 150, members of sensitive groups may experience health effects.

- All individuals may want to consider postponing strenuous activities until air quality improves.

- Consider limiting driving, combining trips and errands and do not burn outdoors.

Source: DEQ, www.idsmoke.com

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