How Does Wildfire Smoke Affect the Air?
The smoke from any fire releases particles and chemicals when carbon-containing materials burn. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, soot, air toxics, irritant volatile organic compounds and very small particles.
Smoke particulates can have a significant impact on lung health. When inhaled, these tiny particles can reach deep into the respiratory system, causing a range of adverse effects.
How Does Wildfire Smoke Affect Lung Health?
1. Inflammation: Smoke particulates, especially those from sources like cigarette smoke, pollution, and forest fires, can trigger an inflammatory response in the lungs. This inflammation can lead to the narrowing of airways and make breathing more difficult.
2. Reduced lung function: Prolonged exposure to smoke particulates can damage the delicate tissues and structures of the lungs, leading to a decline in lung function. This can manifest as reduced lung capacity, decreased ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, and impaired overall respiratory function.
3. Increased risk of respiratory infections: Smoke particulates can impair the immune system's ability to defend against respiratory infections. The damaged lung tissue is more susceptible to infection by bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, leading to an increased risk of conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia.
4. Development of chronic respiratory diseases: Long-term exposure to smoke particulates is associated with the development of chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. These conditions cause progressive and irreversible damage to the lungs, leading to breathing difficulties and reduced quality of life.
5. Asthma exacerbation: Smoke particulates can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms in individuals with the condition. Asthma is characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, and exposure to smoke can act as a strong irritant, leading to asthma attacks and increased respiratory distress.
6. Increased risk of lung cancer: Certain smoke particulates, such as those found in cigarette smoke or industrial pollutants, contain carcinogenic substances. Prolonged exposure to these substances increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
Who is Most at Risk?
Wildfire smoke can affect everyone, so everyone should be overall cautious of air quality, avoid smoky areas, and limit physical exertion during times of high smoke levels. People with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions like asthma are more at risk of health effects from smoke. Older adults, pregnant woman, and young children are also more at risk.
The good news is that there is a plethora of both natural and pharmaceutical remedies that can help alleviate symptoms due to exposure to smoke particulates.
What are the Symptoms of Wildfire Smoke?
Inhaling wildfire smoke can have immediate health effects including:
- Irritated eyes
- Runny nose
- Scratchy throat
- Increased heart-rate
- Shortness of breath
Best Natural Remedies for Wildfire Smoke:
1. Osha Root is an herb that is found at higher altitudes in the Rocky Mountains and into Mexico. While there is little documentation of the herbs’ effect on humans there has been some research on animals. These studies suggest that Osha has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Historically it has been used by Indigenous people for a variety of issues including respiratory health.
2. Elecampane is an herb that has some anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and antioxidant effects. It has been used historically in various forms for respiratory health.
3. Mullein Leaf has been used historically to calm inflammation and has some research indicating effectiveness. It has also been shown to have antioxidant properties thus protecting cells from damage. There have also been studies that have shown it is effective in breaking up mucus and fighting germs.
4. Lobelia is another herb that has elements that can benefit lung health. It has been used historically to relieve symptoms associated with respiratory health. Some animal studies suggest that the herb is indeed valid for respiratory health, but more scientific studies are required to validate the historical uses.
5. Lung Renewal Blend is an herbal extract that supports healthy respiratory and lung function by clearing excess phlegm, promoting healthy oxygen levels and cleansing the lungs. It is made with Elecampane Root, Mullein Leaf, Osha Root, Yerba Mansa Root, Yerba Santa Leaf, Licorice Root, Dandelion Leaf, and Lobelia Herb in a base of organic cane alcohol and distilled water, vegetable glycerin.
It is important to note that the severity of the effects depends on various factors, including the concentration and duration of exposure, individual susceptibility, and the type of particulates involved. To protect lung health, it is crucial to avoid or minimize exposure to smoke particulates by avoiding smoking, using proper respiratory protection in polluted environments, supplement with herbs and other remedies, and promoting clean air policies and practices.
Alantolactone suppresses inflammation, apoptosis and oxidative stress in cigarette smoke-induced human bronchial epithelial cells through activation of Nrf2/HO-1 and inhibition of the NF-κB pathways - PubMed (nih.gov)