For many Washingtonians, air pollution from wildfires has only increased in the past few decades. Drier forests caused by climate change have led to the number of wildfires in Washington doubling since 1984, according to the state’s Department of Ecology.
Even if there aren’t wildfires in Washington, smoke from surrounding states can travel and congregate pollutants in our airways. These particles are often so small, they can cause more damage to the human body. Wildfire smoke can cause short-term health problems like coughing, respiratory illness, and cardiac arrest, as well as long-term problems like heart disease and stroke, the BBC reports.
This means that it’s more important than ever to protect your family and home from the pollution caused by smoke during wildfire season, which lasts in Washington from July to September (though keep in mind that the ease with which air pollution can travel means you need to be prepared for wildfires from other regions as well.)
Here are some tips recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency to help protect you and your family this season.
For people with health conditions such as asthma, it’s important to consult with your doctor about what should happen when a wildfire occurs, especially if it’s difficult to avoid the smoke. Also keep your house supplied with extra medicine, food, and water, that way, you don’t have to take unnecessary trips to the grocery stores and increase your risk of breathing in pollutants.
Get a portable air cleaner which you can set up in a specific room to keep the air clean. This air cleaner should be sized properly for the room and have HEPA filters to trap harmful pollutants. You can find a list of recommended purifiers on Consumer Reports. Keep indoor air pollution to a minimum, such as that caused by running the vacuum, using aerosol sprays, or lighting a wood burning stove.
When smoke pollution levels can get particularly bad, health officials recommend reducing the amount you go outside, especially if you’re exerting yourself with activities like running, biking, or mowing the lawn. Instead, you can maintain your fitness (and combat cabin fever) by trying exercise videos or doing other indoor workouts.
Keep up-to-date with alerts from your local health officials. Many smart phone weather apps will be able to tell you the air pollution levels in your zip code, and help you figure out whether it’s safe to venture outside. In Washington state, you can visit the Department of Ecology website to find a map that will show you exactly what the air quality of your neighborhood is like right now!
For questions about health insurance, contact a Sea Mountain Health Insurance Specialist.