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Fireworks and asthma.

Fireworks and Asthma

So, it’s that time of year again – time to celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. That means BBQ’s, parades, and fireworks!

It’s red, white & blue shirts, hats, sunglasses, and lots of American flags.

I love all of it – except fireworks.


Well, when you have asthma, fireworks can make it very hard to breathe. Fireworks have lots of smoke – which can get down deep into your lungs. In fact, it can be VERY dangerous for some people. It can be so dangerous, that you can end up in the hospital. Middle Son was 8 years old when he ended up in ICU one year because he was outside watching fireworks. Too much smoke lead to a very scary 3 day stay in the hospital. I will never forget it.

Is that unusual? A Time Magazine article says,

“Extended exposure to particulate matter can lead to coughing, wheezing and even lead to an early death for people with pre-existing conditions like heart or lung disease, according to the EPA.”

It’s not just Middle Son that has problems with asthma. Older Son, Daughter and I all have asthma, and also have a tough time each year with fireworks. And since it takes a while to get the smoke out of the sky, we have problems with our asthma for days and days afterwards (unless it happens to rain – which is rare in the summer for us.)

Did you know that air quality takes a nose dive on 4th of July? Time has an article that says:

“Avoiding firework pollution can be difficult, if not impossible, health experts say. People in the immediate vicinity of fireworks will experience the most pollution. From there, the particles will disperse throughout the area, hardly leaving any place untouched. People sitting downwind from the fireworks will receive the brunt of pollution, says Joel Schwartz, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Harvard University.”

So, what do you do if you have asthma?

You don’t want to be left out of all the ooing and awwing! And it really is amazing to watch the fireworks against the night sky. We usually just watch the aerial fireworks from a city celebration quite a ways away from us. We found the perfect spot on a hillside where we can safely watch the fireworks from a couple of miles away.

But – we moved into a new neighborhood. And we just had an awkward moment when the neighbors are excitedly telling us about their annual Independence Day BBQ and parade – which ends with a “Cul de sac of fire” at night. They tell us that all the neighbors pitch in to buy fireworks and then shoot them off in a spectacular display. Oh. “How nice” I say (while I’m thinking that we are going to be watching the fireworks from INSIDE our house that night……)

Some people like to watch the fireworks from inside their house, while others swear by an N95 or N99 air pollution masks. Those mask are made to filter out the tiny particles. I don’t have one, but some of my friends do, and say the mask really helps their asthma when there is bad air quality. Do your research and see what’s right for you.

So, Independence Day is just around the corner. Make sure you are safe – whether that means ducking inside the house during fireworks, or wearing a specially made mask. And make sure your rescue inhaler or nebulizer is handy – just in case.

Anyone else have a tough time with the smoke from fireworks?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • barkway
    9 months ago

    When the risks to health and the environment are so high, I don’t understand why fireworks are still legal. Why should asthmatics have to stay indoors, or wear masks just for a “tradition?” Why should families have to suffer financial loss from medical bills due to asthma attacks from fireworks, or worse, suffer the loss of a lived one from asthma because of fireworks? Don’t we have any rights? There are new, innivative alternatives to fireworks including light shows with drones, and there are plenty of enjoyable ways to celebrate Independence Day without threatening the health and safety of others.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi barkway and thanks for your post. While you do bring up an excellent perspective for the asthmatic, their families, and the environment, this is a challenging issue. Even in states where fireworks are considered to be illegal, I see very little in the way of ‘law enforcement’ when the Independence Day Holiday season is upon us! These ‘customs / traditions’ seem as though they will be with us for the foreseeable future (and longer). It would appear to be up to those of us who suffer the consequences of exposure to protect ourselves when the season arrives. It’s sad, from my perspective. Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

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