Georgia is experiencing another drought. The EPD declared a Level 1 drought on Sept. 9, 2016 for North Georgia. An historic consequence of this drought has been 30,000 acres of wildfires, which are still burning and expelling tons of particulate matter, ash and smoke into our air. Normally fall brings cleaner drier air to our community, but this year the air itself is toxic and the smoke generated by wildfires is a potential health hazard for everyone in the area. Wildfire smoke can cause a number of physical symptoms, and we have seen an increasing number of people complaining of these. Those most affected are seniors, children, and people suffering from chronic heart conditions, asthma and COPD.
Symptoms caused by wildfire smoke occur because of irritation of the respiratory tract.
Most common symptoms are:
- Cough and Shortness of breath
- Scratchy sore throat
- Chest pain
- Burning pain in eyes
- Runny or burning nose
- Burning, inflamed and stuffy sinuses
- Worsening of heart disease can include chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue
- Worsening of asthma and COPD include difficulty breathing, cough, wheezing and limited exercise tolerance
If there are fires near you, be prepared to evacuate from the wildfire path. Listen to the news to learn about current evacuation orders. Follow the instructions of local officials about when and where to evacuate. Take only essential items with you. Follow designated evacuation routes, others may be blocked, and expect heavy traffic.
Paraphrasing Smokey Bear: “Prevent wildfires from starting” Prepare, build, maintain and extinguish campfires safely. Comply with local regulations if you plan to burn trash or debris. Check with your local fire department to be sure the weather is safe enough for burning. NOTE: Georgia has banned the use of fireworks for the rest of the year.
SO…. WHAT CAN YOU DO?
First, listen to local air quality reports. Today, our Air Quality Index (AQI) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is 123 (orange) “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” When >150, almost everyone will experience negative health effects. If we get news reports that there are toxins in the smoke we may offer enhanced detoxification support, in the form of herbs and supplements to support the liver, lungs, bowel, sweat, and immune system. For now, we suggest the following:
If a public health message warns you to stay indoors, keep your indoor air as clean as possible and take the following precautions:
- Run air-conditioners on re-circulation mode and be sure to use a clean filter. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter may reduce the number of fine particles in indoor air and may help prevent breathing problems, and is recommend to have in the sleeping rooms of all respiratory or cardiac patients.
- Keep all windows and doors closed.
- Don’t allow anyone to smoke in the home, and do not use candles (especially scented ones), fireplaces, gas stoves, or other sources of added smoke.
- Even vacuuming should be avoided, since this can increase the number of particles in the air from substances that are already present in the home.
- Go indoors; change your clothes and rest.
- If eyes are red and or itchy, rinse them with water, saline contact lens solution and or use homeopathic soothing eye drops like Similisan.
- If it’s too hot to stay in your home with all the windows and doors closed and you do not have an air conditioner, you should arrange for shelter in another location.
- Paper dust masks sold at hardware stores are designed to filter large particles in the air (like sawdust) and will not protect you from inhaled smoke, but N-95 masks that you would use for reducing exposure to flu may provide some protection. A reusable mask often seen on the streets of Beijing is the VogMask. They come in a variety of colors and styles.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent toxic chemicals from smoke from getting concentrated and harder to expel, and to keep mucus thinner and easier to clear.
- Another mucus membrane remedy is the use of demulcents. This is a term derived from the Latin word for caress. Demulcents are thought to be mucoprotective by helping cells make a thin layer of mucus. Common ones include okra, and teas or tinctures made from licorice, marshmallow (the herb, not the candy!), slippery elm and aloe.
- Make an appointment to see us if chronic symptoms are getting worse.
- Consider getting a “Detox cocktail” at CFM. We will give you 500 cc of IV fluid to flush toxin from your kidneys, IV glutathione to support your liver’s ability to remove chemicals and we can add nasal oxygen while you sit for your IV to get your oxygen saturation up to 99-100% (for an extra fee.) For no extra charge, we can apply an essential oil blend to your chest and neck to help open and calm unhappy airways.