Your Health During Wildfire Season

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Your Health During Wildfire Season

Date: 08/17/10

Your Health During Wildfire Season

Wildfires occur each year in Montana. Wildfires from other Western states also generate smoke. Smoke from a wildfire is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials.

The health effects of wildfire smoke range from eye, throat, and respiratory tract irritation to more serious disorders, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, and exacerbation of asthma. Wildfire smoke can affect healthy people as well as those with pre-existing lung or heart disease. Children and the elderly are especially sensitive to the effects of wildfire smoke.

During wildfire season, there are measures everyone can take to protect their health from the harmful pollutants filling the air, as well as to prepare themselves in the event a wildfire reaches the community.

The following information contains a few health tips for protecting yourself and your family members during times of unhealthful air quality conditions.

Limit your exposure time as much as possible. Reducing outdoor physical activity will lower the amount of polluted air your body intakes.

Keep the windows of your vehicle closed. The car’s ventilation system typically removes a portion of the particulate coming in from outside. For best results, most cars have the ability to re-circulate the inside air, which will help keep the particulate levels lower.

Curtail outdoor activities and events that involve strenuous exercise or lengthy sports participation.
Seniors with heart or lung disease should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.

Keep your windows and doors closed. Use your air conditioning system and place it on recirculation mode, if available.

Consult your physician if you or a family member suffers from a heart condition, lung ailment, or other chronic diseases.

Increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink cool fluids each hour.

Here are some safety tips for wildfire preparedness:

  • Develop and maintain an emergency action plan with your family, friends, and neighbors. (An emergency plan structure is available at www.ready.gov)
  • Mitigate flammable fuels that are in close proximity to structures.
  • Understand your potential escape/evacuation routes.
  • Be prepared in the event you need to evacuate your residence.
  • Have adequate supplies and medications available for five days or more.
  • Stay alert. Listen to your local/regional news, weather forecasts, and air quality alerts.
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