Tips for Thought

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality from Wildfires

Unprecedented wildfires have spread across Canada, and their effects, like air pollution, are slowly expanding over North America, affecting citizens and their daily lives, where countless events and games have been postponed. As climate change continues to transform the planet, it has also created unpredictable environmental disasters which affect millions worldwide including super typhoon Mawar affecting Guam and the poor air quality in the east coast.

Typically, Canadian wildfire season lasts from May to October, yet it’s still rare to see such disasters this early, where they affect more than 3.3. million hectares of land!

Wildfires + Air Quality: How It Affects Your Health

One result of wildfires is poor air quality. Smoke from wildfires can affect one’s health in various ways, whereas airborne particles can travel long distances. When left to their own devices, these particles can fly into your eyes and get into your respiratory system, making you susceptible to health effects even if you’re relatively healthy.

Some common side effects of poor air quality due to wildfire smoke include:

  • Stinging and dry eyes;
  • Itchy or scratchy throat;
  • Difficulty in breathing;
  • Headaches; and
  • Runny noses

However, some studies show that specific areas with high air particle levels can increase heart attack and stroke.

While various firefighters are already trying their best to help quell the fires, it may take time before air quality can clear up and return to normal levels. While waiting, it’s a good idea to secure indoor air quality, even if you’re not in many states affected by poor air quality.

Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality:

1. Check your Outdoor Air Quality

AirNow.Gov is a website that lets you check outdoor air quality in your state. The Air Quality Index (AQI) measures particulate levels, including solid and liquid droplets. As a rule, AQI levels between 101 and 150 are warning levels for susceptible people like children, older individuals, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma. Levels above 151, however, are unhealthy for anyone, even healthy individuals.

One reason why checking outdoor air quality is that it can slowly seep into your home. Buildings and windows are not “particle proof,” so people can’t always stay inside for long periods. So, to prepare to improve your indoor air quality, it helps to understand outdoor air quality and how it can affect your home.

2. Stay inside.

AQI levels higher than 151 harm everyone involved, including healthy individuals. If your state has poor air quality thanks to the wildfires, it’s best to postpone any plans you may have outside.

3. Keep your windows and doors closed.

While we undoubtedly can’t get rid of all the particles that will eventually get into the home, it’s best to lessen any access to prevent worsening the quality of your home.

4. Keep your pets’ potty breaks brief.

Avoid going on long walks with your pets if they need to go. You can also invest in an artificial puppy pee pad if the worst comes to light.

5. Invest in portable air cleaners.

Portable air cleaners with HEPA filters (like LEVOIT air purifiers) help remove at least 99% of the particles in the air that pass through the filter. Run your air filter indoors to help keep quality clean and healthy.

6. Run your air conditioner indoors and in cars on “recirculate.”

This setting helps filter out some particles from the outdoors while making it easier for you to perform your tasks.

7. Avoid activities that affect air quality indoors.

Some examples include using gas or wood-burning stoves, spraying various aerosol products, frying food, and burning candles.

8. Add a HEPA filter to your vacuum cleaners.

Vacuum cleaners help get rid of dirt and dust in the home. However, wildfires outside may affect indoor quality if you’re not careful. One solution to prevent such a problem is to invest in a HEPA filter for vacuums, which will help improve indoor air quality.

9. Buy N95 masks.

We’ve come a long way since lockdown. However, people susceptible to poor outdoor air quality can significantly improve their chances by investing in some N95 masks. N95 masks are the best option because they protect the wearer from large and small particles, offering better protection coverage.

10. Avoid smoking near susceptible individuals or try to kick the habit.

Smoking is a health hazard and can affect your body overall. Second-hand smoke is also harmful because it can create various health problems affecting nearby people. Some of which include:

  • Damage of blood vessel lining;
  • Interference of the circulatory system’s functions; and
  • Affect individuals who are susceptible, like children, pets, and pregnant women

If you have a smoking habit, consider at least cutting back during this time or substitute smoking with chewing gum. If you must smoke, please avoid being near others.

11. Keep your medications close.

If you have respiratory or circulatory issues like asthma, heart, and stroke, always focus on your health. Ensure your medications are enough, and wear a mask outside. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and visit a doctor if you’re experiencing any severe symptoms.

Summary:

Climate change has brought numerous devastating consequences like super typhoons and wildfires. For the latter, one of its catastrophic effects aside from deaths and loss of wildlife include poor air quality, which can lead to disease and death.

To avoid becoming susceptible to its effects, it helps to check outdoor air quality and reduce or forego activities that can worsen air quality inside the home. While these don’t necessarily eliminate the harmful air particles, it does help evade the worst symptoms of poor air quality.

As of now, we may need more time before outdoor air quality returns to normal levels. Until the world can work together to evade climate change and benefit everyone, we can only focus on protecting ourselves and our loved ones. So, while these are only “temporary solutions” at best, they can prevent long-term issues that can affect your health. If you have any underlying health issues, make sure to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Stay safe!