I used to love summer. Now, a hazy, smoky sky and campfire smell in the air is what I wake up to every morning. Wildfire season has returned with a vengeance for a third summer in a row. Nearby forest and grass fires are causing smoke to linger in our basin-like valley. It has become a nightmare for me and other allergy sufferers.
Idaho, where I live, has been hit hard with wildfires due to excessively hot temperatures. We are not alone as a fierce fire season has hit other nearby western states. We also get smoke in our valley from these fires. Right now, I am looking forward to fall because of the impact of the fires on the air quality, my health and lack of outdoor enjoyment.
For me, the lingering smoke has irritated my sinuses, eyes and throat. I have a persistent headache from my irritated sinuses. Others like my family members and acquaintances are experiencing coughing, shortness of breath, headaches, runny nose and eye irritation, including styes.
The smoke is the culprit in everyone’s suffering. It contains particulates, a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning vegetation, which can hurt the eyes and irritate respiratory passages. In some cases, the smoke may worsen pre-existing conditions, such as respiratory allergies and asthma.
Four groups most affected by wildfire smoke are:
Young children whose lungs are still developing;
Elderly people who may have chronic diseases;
Individuals with chronic lung disease, such as asthma or COPD;
Those with chronic heart disease.
Your best bet for relief is to avoid the smoke and haze as much as possible by staying indoors with the windows closed and the air conditioner on. Use eye drops and nasal saline to help wash the particles out of your eyes and nose.
Wash your clothes and hair after being outside to remove allergens. Keep taking your allergy medication. Ignore your crazy local weather person who says to leave the windows open at night to enjoy the cool night air. Yes, it may be cooler at night but the air quality is still poor. If driving, keep the windows closed and the air conditioner on recirculation to avoid exposure.
Consider wearing a dust mask or covering the mouth or nose with a damp cloth if you must be out during heavy smoke periods. Switch your exercise sessions to indoors because exercise causes you to breathe more deeply and drive the particulates deeper into the respiratory system.