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Blog article titled "How to protect yourself from wildfire smoke if you have asthma"

Protect yourself from wildfire smoke if you have asthma  

We’re thrilled to feature Lorene Alba, a Certified Asthma educator (AE-C) with extensive experience in managing asthma and allergies. Living with asthma and allergies since she was 16, Lorene has held key educational roles at the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, the California Department of Public Health, and the American Lung Association. Her expertise as a chronic disease educator and patient advocate provides valuable knowledge to help you navigate asthma challenges. Read on for her tips on protecting yourself from wildfire smoke if you have asthma. 

It’s wildfire season 

It’s summertime, which means it’s also wildfire season. Even if you don’t live in an area prone to wildfires, smoke can travel thousands of miles and create unhealthy air.  

Even if you don't live in an area prone to wildfires, wildfire smoke can travel thousands of miles and create unhealthy air.  

How wildfire smoke can worsen your asthma 

Wildfire smoke creates particulate matter so small it lodges deep into the lungs. Exposure to wildfire smoke is dangerous for everyone, but people with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, are at higher risk for getting sick. Smoke particles can also impact pregnant women and people with heart disease.  

What’s in wildfire smoke?  

How to protect yourself from wildfire smoke 

Prepare your home. 

Maximizing indoor air quality can help reduce asthma symptoms.  

  • Make sure your air conditioning units are in good working order. If you have window air conditioning units, ensure there are no gaps between the unit and the window.  
  • Change the air filters in your home every 90 days or per the manufacturer’s recommendations.  
  • If your home has an HVAC system, look for a “fresh air” or “recirculated air” setting. Choose recirculated air to keep the wildfire smoke from coming inside.  
  • Choose portable air cleaners that are large enough for the rooms you are using them in. Air purifiers with ionizers are not recommended for people with asthma; they create ozone that can trigger symptoms. Use air purifiers with HEPA filters. You can also DIY an air purifier with a filter and box fan. Directions can be found online. If you can’t have air purifiers or air conditioners in every room, set up one room with these devices where everyone can go to breathe easier.  

If you do not have air conditioning or a way to keep the wildfire smoke out of your home, research and prepare to go to shelters where you can stay cool and safe.  

Air purifiers with ionizers are not recommended for people with asthma; they create ozone that can trigger symptoms.

Use a personal air purifier.  

Wait, is there even such a thing as a personal air purifier? Actually, there is! The Respiray Wear A+ wearable personal air purifier is a groundbreaking device that is comfortably worn around your neck that uses a HEPA filter to purify the air around your face. The device has been clinically tested and proven to remove 99.9% of airborne particles, allergens and viruses.  

There are many benefits to using the Wear A+. First, it can take hours for room air purifiers to remove pollutants like wildfire smoke from the air, but the Wear A+ offers complete protection from the moment you turn it on. Second, it can be worn anywhere: at work, school, public transportation, or in different rooms in your house, ensuring you breathe purified air no matter where you go. And third, the device gives me peace of mind. I know that using this personal air filter will lessen chances I breathe in a trigger that will trigger an asthma attack.  

This personal air purifier is essential to my asthma and allergy treatment toolkit. It’s my go-to for protecting against viruses, allergens, and pollution.  

Respiray Wear A+ wearable air purifier for wildfire smoke.

Update your asthma action plan.  

  • Work with your doctor to update your asthma action plan. Include the steps to take if you are exposed to wildfire smoke and have asthma symptoms. Asthma symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and/or chest tightness.  
  • Talk with your healthcare provider about recognizing the symptoms of a breathing emergency. These include the inability to talk in full sentences, lips or fingernails turning blue or ashen, and/or your rescue medication not working. Develop a plan to receive fast medical attention by calling 9-1-1 or going right away to an emergency department.  
  • Ensure you have enough medications on hand for a few weeks. Take all medications for your asthma and allergies as directed.  

Monitor air quality. 

  • Wildfires can change the air quality quickly. High temperatures, humidity, air pollution, wind, and wildfire smoke can work together and cause bad air quality. Check the air quality index daily on the website AirNow.gov for general air quality information, as well as specific information with a live map for wildfire smoke. You can also check the heat index.  
  • Smoky conditions can last for several days. Even if your local air no longer smells or looks smoky, the air quality may still be unhealthy. Continue to monitor the air quality and heat indexes and take precautions to protect yourself from harmful air. 

Protect your lungs outside. 

  • The EPA recommends wearing an N95 mask or P100 respirator if you must go outside. Cloth or surgical masks will not protect you from PM2. Make sure the mask is snug and does not have gaps between your face and it. Wear sunglasses or goggles to keep the smoke from irritating your eyes.  
  • Drive with your windows closed and with the fan on recirculated air. Change the air filter in the car cabin every 15,000 – 30,000 miles.  
  • Always carry your asthma quick-relief inhaler with you to manage sudden symptoms. 
  • Wear your Wear A+ to help filter out pollution, smoke, and allergens.  
Woman wearing an N95 mask.

Stay indoors as much as possible, and create a safe home environment. 

Woman vacuuming while wearing Respiray personal wearable air purifier for wildfire smoke
  • It’s important to remember that outdoor air does find its way indoors. Keep the windows and doors closed during wildfires and run the air conditioning. Use your air purifiers. Dehumidifiers and humidifiers are not recommended because they will not help clean the indoor air.  
  • If you’ve been outside, the smell of smoke may attach to your skin, hair, and clothes. Change your clothes as soon you come inside, and shower to remove the smokey smell from your skin and hair.  
  • Wear a Respiray Wear A+ as much as possible. Remember, the device’s HEPA filter works like your personal air filter, keeping particles from the wildfire smoke out of your lungs. 
  • Try not to use a gas stove if possible. Gas stoves will give off fumes that can create unhealthy air, especially when the air quality is already poor. You also may experience difficulty breathing when frying foods. Use air fryers, slow cookers, or microwaves to prepare meals. Don’t use outdoor grills or fire pits. 
  • Don’t smoke or vape indoors, or at all, if possible. Avoid using candles (especially scented candles), aerosols, perfumes, or strong cleaning chemicals.  
  • When cleaning, you don’t want the settled particles to get airborne—dust with a damp or microfiber cloth. Avoid sweeping, and use a HEPA filter vacuum or mop instead. 

Following these tips can reduce your chances of experiencing asthma symptoms or attacks during wildfire season. Talk with your healthcare provider about the impact of wildfire smoke exposure and how best to protect yourself.  

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