ALLERGY TO SMOKE
When smoke levels or other indoor or outdoor respiratory irritants are high, even healthy people can experience health problems due to smoke allergy symptoms. It’s important to understand how these irritants can affect your health, including who is most susceptible to allergic reactions. How do these effects interact with conditions like asthma or allergies? How to deal with a smoke allergy? Let’s look closely to answer some of these questions, which in turn will help us better understand what health precautions we need to take.
PARTICULATE MATTER IN WILDFIRE SMOKE
The particulate component of wood smoke is made up of particles of varying sizes, based on the material being burned and the temperature it’s burned at. Wildfires introduce a massive amount of particulate pollutants into the air, estimated to be more than urban pollution. The size of the particles is important because smaller particles stay in the air longer, and therefore are dispersed over longer distances and wider areas.
Fine (under 2.5 microns) and ultrafine (under 1 micron) particles are of special concern because particles that small can enter the lungs and become lodged in the tissue there, causing damage to the surrounding cells. When particles this small enter the lungs, they cause an inflammatory response that can extend from the surrounding cells to systemic inflammation. Resulting in greater susceptibility to infections. These are some reasons why there is an increased demand for respirators amongst hospital centers and medical facilities worldwide.
WOOD SMOKE ALLERGY SYMPTOMS
The immediate short-term effects, regardless of sensitivity, are burning eyes, nose, and throat, watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, and shortness of breath. Your body may produce extra phlegm in response to inhaling smoke. These symptoms are, in part, your body attempting to expel particles by washing them away. In addition, phlegm traps particles before they can reach your lungs. Even healthy adults may experience an inflammatory response of wheezing or restricted breathing.
People with asthma may have breathing difficulties in everyday air. The irritation caused by inhaling smoke can trigger asthma symptoms, including shortness of breath, constricted chest, wheezing, inability to draw deep breaths, and chest pain. People with allergies may have an allergic reaction to something in the wood smoke. However, the symptoms of an allergic reaction are virtually identical to the other short-term symptoms of inhaling smoke. Those symptoms may be worse than they would be for someone without allergies. Repeated exposures to wood smoke have been found to cause an allergic sensitization of the respiratory system. However, this is more likely in someone like a firefighter who battles wildfires than someone who experiences wildfire smoke infrequently.
HOW TO DEAL WITH SMOKE ALLERGY
Allergy and asthma sufferers can take several steps to decrease the impact of wildfire smoke:
- Keep track of air quality ratings in your area to assess risk.
- Minimize exposure by staying indoors as much as possible.
- Protect your indoor air quality by keeping windows and doors closed.
- Don’t burn candles, vacuum, or use aerosol sprays—they’re all sources of indoor pollution.
- If your home has air conditioning or a high-efficiency particulate air filter, use it.
- Avoid unnecessary exercise or exertion, both indoors and out.
- If you do go out, reduce indoor pollution by showering and changing clothes when you return.
- If you use a rescue inhaler, keep one on hand.
- Pay close attention to symptoms and seek medical help at the first sign of trouble.
FIRE SMOKE ALLERGY TREATMENT
Treatments for smoke allergy during the winter include:
- Antihistamines, which reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching
- Decongestants, which clear mucus to relieve congestion and swelling
- Immunotherapy (allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets), which expose your body to gradually bigger doses of the allergen. This approach can curb your symptoms for a longer period of time than allergy drugs.
To conclude, many people believe that as the spring and fall seasons wrap, so do their allergies. But the truth is that they are mistaken. While the onslaught of colder weather and freezing temperatures bring an end to seasonal pollen allergies, it doesn’t mean that your environment is free of allergens. This winter be sure that when bringing in any firewood into the home that it’s been cleaned and checked for mold. In addition, when starting any fire, make sure that the chimney damper is open so that no unwanted smoke comes into the home.
The best way for a person to handle smoke allergies is also the simplest: understand what triggers the symptoms and control them with avoidance. For now, make sure to stay safe and stay warm this holiday season!
Did you enjoy reading this article? Do you have any smoke or other winter-related allergies? What do you normally do to deal with the symptoms? Leave a comment below!