wildfire outside of window

The New Normal: Wildfires?

I love summer - except I worry about wildfires and smoke. Asthma and wildfire smoke are not a good mix.

How do wildfires affect asthma?

In fact, smoke from a wildfire put my Middle Son in ICU. I can still remember the panic of watching the ER doctor, respiratory therapist, and nurse working on my son. They had him on high liters of oxygen, and were worried he was going to stop breathing. So, they added a heart monitor and placed the "crash cart" outside his hospital room.

That was 15 years ago, and he is healthy and in college. But I can still remember how scary that was. After that, I would worry about wildfires every summer, but we rarely had one. Now we have wildfires every summer.

It was heartbreaking to watch California's Camp Fire1 last year.

Wildfires are a public health threat

I read an article from AP News2, and it said:

"Smoke from wildfires was once considered a fleeting nuisance except for the most vulnerable populations. But it’s now seen in some regions as a recurring and increasing public health threat"

So is this the new normal?

Some areas in Oregon have started to prepare for the worst by adding "air scrubbers" to the filtration system in their local schools. They also send out text and email alerts to let residents know if the National Weather Service issues a smoke alert.

How do we prepare for wildfires?

I am prepared by having standing air purifiers in the bedrooms and living room. We have used them for years and were lucky to have them last summer during a bad wildfire. Every store in our area of 1/2 a million people sold out of air purifiers. People were driving to an hour away to the next county to buy one.

We also have a box of N95 respirators. If you wear one, make sure you are wearing it the right way to keep the smoke out. Many people put them on the wrong way (or worse yet, think a thin paper mask will filter out the smoke!) The tiny particles in smoke are 1/30th the size of a human hair and can get down deep inside the lungs.

Is it that dangerous? Well, the AP article2 says"

"Death can occur within days or weeks among the most vulnerable following heavy smoke exposure."

So, I try to think like my Eagle Scout son and "be prepared!" I watch the weather reports for any sign of fire, keep the air purifiers on hand (and filters changed), and have a big box of N95 respirators.

Have you had any experiences with smoke from wildfires? What helped you?

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