Wildfires can wreak havoc on our environment, from nature to roads to homes – but what many don’t realize is that they can impact far more than those directly in the path of the flames. Depending on the size of the fire, smoke and ash can cause particulate matter to stretch hundreds of miles away from its origin which impacts our air quality and can create health issues for many people. With this in mind, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to caring for you and your family during wildfires.
How the smoke may affect your health
Children, older adults, and those with heart or lung conditions (like asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis) are at greater risk of health issues, including trouble breathing. Even if you’re not in these higher-risk groups, you may experience allergy-like symptoms including congestion, sore throat, breathing issues, eye irritation, and fatigue.
If you feel like you’re not getting enough air, you should seek immediate medical attention.
How to prepare and protect yourself
Like in any other unpredictable natural disasters, being prepared for anything is the first step. We recommend having non perishable food, water, and two weeks worth of medications stocked and ready. Identify locations in the community that have cleaner, filtered air spaces such as indoor shopping malls and local libraries. Consider purchasing an air purifier (HEPA) to create a cleaner air room in your home. Create a personal, family, or group emergency plan and be ready to evacuate.
During a smoke event, avoiding or limiting exposure to the outdoors is the most important thing. Try to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid physical activity when the air quality is bad, especially if you’re in a high-risk group. Keep your windows and doors closed. If you have an air conditioner that recirculates air, this can help with the air quality in your home. Be sure your fresh-air intake is closed so you’re not pulling in smoky air.
When you go outside, wearing a particulate respirator mask rated N95 or P100 might offer some protection as long as it doesn’t worsen any symptoms you are experiencing. These are generally available at hardware stores, but may be difficult to find in times of high demand. Surgical masks and bandanas are often easier to find, but won’t offer any protection from wildfire smoke. N95 masks are not available for children and they should avoid exposure at all times. Bottom line, if a N95 makes you feel better then use it!
Finally, keep your eyes on local air quality reports. You can find regularly updated versions online that can help you make the safest choices for yourself and your family.
How One Medical can help
If you need to refill a prescription for inhaled medications or need any refill called into a different location, just let us know. You can make requests through the app, website, or by phone.
If you have any symptoms you’re concerned about that aren’t life threatening, feel free to reach out to us. We’re always here for you.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.