Bonfires: An Asthmatics Worst Nightmare
Now that summer is in full swing, depending on where you live, you might be counting down the days until fall when the weather will begin to cool down. Cool, crisp days and nights, leaves turning colors... and the inevitable bonfire. “I can’t wait for bonfire season!” - said no asthmatic ever.
I grew up and spent my entire life in Southern California until the spring of 2017 when my family and I moved to the Midwest. While we absolutely LOVE it here and have zero regrets about moving to our new home state, it has come with its unique set of health challenges. One thing, in particular, is the number of fires that are started on purpose. This ranges from small social gatherings with a tiny fire pit to people burning their trash to farmers burning part of their fields in a controlled burn. Basically an asthmatics worst nightmare.
Avoid as much as possible
Depending on your asthma triggers, smoke from fires can range from a minor annoyance to critical hospital admission. Knowing tips and how to deal with those pesky fires can make all of the difference and keep you breathing.
There have been many events that I have had to decline an invitation to due to there being a bonfire. While I oftentimes feel bad for having to miss out on things that I would have otherwise loved to attend, I just simply have to put my health first. I can't risk having a severe asthma attack because of a bonfire. Thankfully, my friends and family completely understand and don't hold it against me.
Be prepared for bonfires!
Knowing ahead of time the potential for a fire is always helpful. But in reality, we will inevitably be exposed to smoke from fires when we aren't expecting it, and we need to be prepared for it.
These tips may help:
- Always keep your rescue inhaler with you at all times! If you are going somewhere that you know will have some sort of fire, talk with your doctor about using your rescue inhaler preemptively before you are exposed to the smoke.
- Invest in a mask with a filter that you can wear over your mouth and nose. I personally purchased a vogmask online and it has been a lifesaver! I actually have two of them now. I keep one in my purse at all times just in case. I am super thankful that I purchased one because I find myself needing to put it on quite often.
- If you do not have a mask, use a scarf around your mouth and nose to help filter the air you are breathing. If you don't have a scarf or mask, pull your shirt/sweatshirt up over your mouth and nose. That is so much better than nothing.
If your house is drafty and you can smell smoke from outside fires with your windows closed, an air purifier might be of help to you. There are many different kinds of air purifiers on the market and if you decide to purchase one, be sure that it has a HEPA filter.
Have an exit strategy
If you are somewhere and are exposed to smoke of any kind and your asthma is starting to flare up, know the fastest way to get away from it if possible. Be sure that whoever you are with knows of your asthma and can help you if you need it. If your asthma starts flaring badly know where the closest hospital is, especially if you are somewhere new. It is better to get out of there than stay and be exposed even more.
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