We’re getting questions from you all about health, so here we go.
What are the symptoms?
Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause health problems that range from minor to severe. Some symptoms include:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation (burning eyes and runny nose)
- Headache and coughing
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Worsening of existing conditions, especially heart and lung diseases
- Asthma attacks, chest pain, or irregular heartbeat
For people with health conditions symptoms can be serious, with increased risk of hospitalization or death. But smoke is not good for anyone to breathe. Health impacts can continue through the week following a wildfire smoke event . Continue to monitor symptoms and don’t delay care if needed.
What about the long-term impacts of smoke?
While there is a lot of evidence about the short-term impacts
of wildfire smoke up to a week after exposure, the longer-term health impacts
from wildfire smoke are not well known, though this research is emerging after
increasingly smoky summers.
However, the research is clear that breathing in PM2.5 (the main component of smoke) even at low levels is not good for health.
Who’s most affected?
There are groups of people more sensitive to smoke, but that list includes more than just health conditions, and likely includes you or someone close to you.
- People with heart and lung disease, people over 65 and under 18, pregnant people, outdoor workers, people of color, tribal and indigenous people, and people with low income.
What about masks?
It’s tough to stay inside all the time with extended periods of smoke. A properly fitted, NIOSH-approved respirator can reduce your exposure to smoke if you have to be outside. KN95 masks or other masks that are approved in other countries may not provide the same protection as NIOSH-approved respirators because they are not regulated in the United States. If using a KN95 mask, look for ones that meet requirements similar to NIOSH-approved respirators. Cloth face coverings, surgical masks, and masks with filter inserts generally do not provide much protection from breathing in smoke.