Fire Season and COPD

Last updated: September 2017

Fire season is almost upon us. The end of summer and the start of fall mean the trees are changing colors, the weather is changing, fields are almost ready to be plowed and a very real danger comes into play; wild fires. I grew up on the west coast, Southern California to be more specific. The end of summer brought harsh Santa Ana weather conditions. It would be hot, dry and windy. Perfect combination for a wild fire.

For me, fire is my number one trigger. I can smell a fire from miles away and it tightens my lungs almost immediately. Smoke can irritate a healthy persons lungs and for those with COPD it can be extremely dangerous.

There are steps that you can take to be prepared for any fires or smoke:

Stay indoors

This might seem obvious but for many it isn't always feasible. Staying indoors as much as possible will limit exposure to the smoky air. Make sure all doors and windows to the outside are closed and any gaps that might be there are blocked off to prevent any smoke from getting inside. Be sure to close all fresh air intakes from furnaces, stoves and fireplaces. If you have air conditioning set it to recirculate. If you have an air purifier with a HEPA filter, turn it on to help keep the air clean. If you do not have air conditioning and aren't able to keep the smoky air out of your home, look into places in your community that you could possibly go to until the air is less hazy. These often times include libraries, indoor malls, community centers etc.

If you have to leave your home

If you aren't able to stay indoors, be sure to keep all car windows up and the air conditioning set to recirculate. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. Limit your time outside and give yourself time to rest. Masks can be helpful as well (I personally have a vogmask that I purchased online that I like) however don't rely on them because they can't filter everything out of the air and you can still breathe in some of the smoky air. If you use oxygen, be sure to have an extra portable tank if possible in case you are out longer than you were expecting.

Have a plan

It's a good idea to have a chat with your doctor about any additional steps you can take medically if you are in an area with wild/brush fires nearby. Much like a regular COPD action plan it would be good to add on perhaps a special section about fires and smoke if you happen to live in an area that is prone to both wild fires and even those from burning crops etc. The burning of crops and trash is new to me as we recently relocated to the Midwest a few months ago. It was definitely something I wasn't prepared for but knew what to do when it happened because of my action plan.

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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.

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