This time of year, many of us are experiencing stuffy noses, runny noses, a cough… Is it allergies? Is it just from poor air quality? Is it COVID? Many of us feel like we just don’t know why we are feeling terrible. With the poor air quality recently, there’s a chance your symptoms are caused by the wildfire smoke in our area.
Is it Bad for Me?
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breathing in smoke can affect you right away and cause coughing, trouble breathing, stinging eyes, scratchy throat, among other symptoms. Older adults, pregnant women, children, and people with preexisting respiratory and heart conditions may be more likely to get sick if they breathe in wildfire smoke. Speak with your primary care provider to discuss more preventive measures you can take to protect yourself.
The CDC also mentions that the “Wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Getting a COVID-19 vaccination can help keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy, especially during wildfire season. If you still need to get your vaccination, you’re in luck! We are still hosting several vaccination clinics all around Colorado. Find a location near you: https://9health365.org/vaccine-locations/
What Can You Do?
There are several things you can do to protect yourself from the poor air quality we’ve had recently.
- Monitor outdoor air quality – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a great site for monitoring local air quality. Air quality changes daily, just like the weather, so be sure to check regularly during wildfire season.
- Reduce your time outdoors- If you exercise outdoors, consider changing your physical activity to something less intense, shorten the amount of time you’re active outside, or completely move your physical activity indoors.
- Get a HEPA Filter – According to National Jewish Hospital, this can help both allergies and wildfire smoke symptoms. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air.
- Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. An “N95” mask, properly worn, will offer some protection. If you decide to keep a mask on hand, see the Respirator Fact Sheet provided by CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
- Know Your Risks – Some people are more likely to have more serious effects from wildfire smoke. If you’re not sure what your risks are, our health fair season is just around the corner and it’s a great way for you to learn what your risks are. Once you receive your results, you can talk with your healthcare provider for next steps.