Wildfire is a large, uncontrolled burning that spreads rapidly across wide areas.
They’re caused either by human efforts such as bush burning or by the natural effects of lightning strikes.
Wildfire is a leading cause of air pollution due to the large amount of smoke released during the burning.
The smoke which contains particles such as PM10 (coarse particles) contaminates the purity of air inhaled by individuals. The smoke may also contain gaseous pollutants which include carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. These gases mix with other chemicals present in the climate to further contaminate the air and thus lead to its pollution.
Due to the mixture of various gases and chemicals released into the air during a wildfire, once such air is inhaled, it can have a detrimental effect on the human body system.
Here are some effects of wildfire smoke
1. Eye and skin irritation: Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause redness of the eyes, itchiness, and burning. It’s thus important to protect the eyes from wildfire by:
- putting on sunglasses, prescription glasses, or hats
- Ensuring the windows are properly closed when indoor
- Constantly purifying the air
- Remembering to always have eye drops should it become necessary to apply
2. Circulatory system effect: The body’s circulatory system includes the heart and blood vessels. Wildfire contains particles which when inhaled enter into the bloodstream and harm the circulatory system. These particles can contribute to cardiovascular infections such as cardiac arrest, strokes, irregular breathing, and heart attacks in severe cases. An example of particles contained in a wildfire is PM 2.5, and they’ve been linked as a leading cause of the severe risk of circulatory issues.
3. Respiratory problems: Smokes generally are known to affect the respiratory system. Inhaling wildfire smoke can thus have an unsuitable impact on the respiratory system, causing various respiratory problems such as difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest pain. These symptoms are worse for people experiencing asthma or other lung diseases. It’s thus important to take precautions such as wearing a nose mask that covers the face and mouth, keeping the windows locked to reduce the risk of smoke entry, and staying indoors when a wildfire is going on is key for protecting the respiratory system and mitigating the risk of wildfire smoke associated with the respiratory system.
4. Wildfire smoke can worsen certain health conditions such as allergies and other cardiovascular diseases, posing increased risks. Pregnant women and older people are particularly vulnerable to the effects of wildfire. For pregnant women, exposure to a wildfire can affect the growing fetus. Similarly, older individuals are more susceptible to the effects of wildfire due to their weakened immune systems and reduced psychological reserves. Thus, taking proper precautions as well as seeking appropriate medical advice is recommended for individuals with specific health problems.
5. Exposure to wildfire can also result in a weakened immune system thus making the body susceptible to various respiratory infections. This increased susceptibility increases the risks of developing illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
It’s therefore advisable to take proper precautions during a wildfire event. People are advised to monitor air conditions, minimise exposure to wildfires, and stay updated with various news outlets.