Breathe Easy? Overcoming Health Challenges from Canadian Wildfires

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Canadian wildfires bringing air pollution to the United States

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The “hazy days of summer” have long been associated with the season when the air grows thick and temperatures reach their peak, but it is safe to say that the events of June of 2023 has taken this concept to a completely different level.

Smoke from wildfires in Quebec has slowly drifted southward throughout numerous parts of the Midwestern and Eastern U.S., prompting widespread alerts and raising concerns about the short and long-term effects upon public health.

Just how serious are these effects, and what steps can people take to protect themselves until the air clears? 

Premier Health Now met with family nurse practitioner, Heather Branam, APRN-CNP, FNP-C, to learn more about the risks of poor air quality and the importance of taking appropriate precautions.

Waiting to Inhale

For much of the American midwest, late spring and early summer notoriously comes with a host of health challenges often brought on by seasonal allergies through the likes of tree and grass pollen, mold spores, and a variety of insects. The addition of smoke from the Canadian wildfires can almost seem like an insult to injury.

“When we are breathing in more pollutants such as smoke particles, it decreases the air exchange in the lungs” Branam says. “This can lead to difficulty breathing and possibly the development of a cough. Some people may also experience wheezing, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes. In some cases, people may require additional medical treatment.”

Awareness plays a significant role in determining how to best meet and overcome this health obstacle, and it begins with a clear understanding of your own health history.

“Increased air pollution isn’t beneficial for anyone, but it can pose an even greater threat to those with certain underlying issues,” Branam says. “People who are more likely to be impacted by these poor air conditions are those who currently suffer from chronic lung disease such as asthma, COPD or significant seasonal allergies.”

Branam encourages people to monitor their local news for up-to-the-minute air quality reports to gauge their own personal safety. Those at a greater risk should choose to stay indoors and limit outside activity on days when air pollution is at its highest. 

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