How wildfire smoke affects the body, and how to protect yourself

How wildfire smoke affects the body, and how to protect yourself
Most people know smoke inhalation is bad, but here are the medical reasons why – and tips to avoid illness and injury from smoke. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) – From Florida to Washington state, the U.S. endured one of the worst fire seasons over the summer.

And now, more than a dozen wildfires are burning in California alone.

The blazes have killed at least 50 people and have forced thousands of people from their homes.

When wildfires threaten, it’s not just the flames that can damage people’s health. The smoke can also put people at risk.

Smoke from wildfires combines dangerous gases with fine particulates that come when things like trees, shrubs and anything else in the fire’s path go up in flames.

If there’s a lot of smoke in the atmosphere, it can make anyone, even healthy people, sick.

Breathing it in can affect you immediately. It can impact your respiratory system and your eyes, elevate your heartbeat, even trigger headaches and chest pain.

And if you have asthma or chronic heart and lung diseases, smoke from wildfires can make them worse.

Children and the elderly are at special risk.

If there are wildfires near you, keep the air inside as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors shut, and the fresh air intake on your air conditioner closed.

If there are people with risk factors in your home, consider investing in an indoor air filter.

And be sure to pay attention to air quality and visibility reports. Follow any advisories from local safety officials, and don’t delay if you’re told to evacuate.

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