With over 141 new wildfires igniting in BC over the weekend the skies over much of western Canada and the US are filled with smoke. Not only are wildfires a scary thing to encounter or endure, but the smoke they create can seriously affect your health.
Wildfire smoke causes an inflammatory immune response in our bodies, this response can cause a number of symptoms from a sore throat and watery eyes, to more complicated concerns for people with pre-existing health issues like asthma, heart and lung conditions (to name a few). Even for relatively healthy people, extended exposure to wildfire smoke can affect your energy, mood and overall health.
Having lived through a smoke-filled summer last year in the Kootenay’s, I acquired a few tips for fighting the effects of wildfire smoke inhalation, which unfortunately I’ve started to put into practice again this year. Please note that I am not a healthcare practitioner and these tips are just that, tips from my own life experience. Also, for all those trolls out there, please note that I did not receive any compensation from the companies mentioned in this post. These are products and suggestions I found helped me with smoke inhalation and I am sharing them in the case that they might help someone else. It’s unfortunate that this needs to be said, but hey, that’s life. So here we go!
1. Sore Throat
My worst and most persistent symptom of wildfire smoke inhalation is a sore throat. I’m the kind person who gets a sore throat from merely walking by someone who’s smoking a cigarette, so weeks of smoke-filled air is a real irritant. One of the best solutions I’ve found is bee propolis, in the form of a spray. Bee Propolis has anti-inflammatory properties that help to soothe your sore throat and fight the inflammatory response brought on by smoke. It’s also antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal which helps strengthen your immune system and ward off coughs, colds and other bugs that might be lingering around. You can most likely find bee propolis spray at your local health food store or online. I buy my (Beekeepers Naturals – Propolis Spray) at the Kootenay Co-op in Nelson.
2. Burning Chest
I also find that my bee propolis spray helps with the burning sensation in my chest. This feeling is similar to acid reflux (without the liquid/acid), and if any of you have ever had reflux, you know what I mean when I say it’s not a very nice feeling. One other trick that seems to alleviate this symptom is drinking LOTS of water.
3. Stuffy Nose & Allergies
If you have allergies there’s a good chance that wildfire smoke is going to make your symptoms act-up. I find that using a tincture for sinus and allergies really helps my congested nasal passages. Of course, staying indoors and out of the smoke is your best bet, but sometimes you need a little extra help. On days like today, when my home is literally engulfed in smoke, it can REALLY help! For me, it especially helps at night when I tend to get a stuffed-up nose anyway (sorry for my sniffles hubby!). I like to use St. Francis – Sinafect, but your local herbal apothecary or naturopath might be able to make a custom blend just for you. I also find that using a nasal rinse saline solution really helps — that’s right, it’s neti pot time!
3. Watery and/or Burning Eyes
The only time my eyes get really bad is when the smoke is so thick that the house across the street looks like it lives in some kind of hazy dreamland). In this case, get out… or should I say in? Get out of the smoke, go indoors, and find cleaner smoke-free air. Luckily, living in the mountains means I can drive 20 or 30 minutes away to a different valley where the smoke is often less thick. Working inside an air-conditioned office also helps give me a little bit of a break during the day. If these aren’t options for you try using a natural eye-wash rinse to clear your eyes, and a HEPA-filter to clean the air inside your home or workspace.
4. Low Energy
I was pretty surprised at how tired I can get when exposed to constant smoke. It totally makes sense though, if your body is constantly in a state of inflammation your immune system never gets a break. For this, I make sure to amp up on anti-inflammatory and immune boosting foods like berries, oranges, cherries, dark leafy greens, ginger tea, echinacea tea, and curcumin supplements.
5. Low Mood
Summer wildfires are kind of a catch-22. Usually, there’s a lack of rain and hot temps that contribute to the fires starting (and continuing to burn), but at the same time, the cheerful summer sun is blocked out by smokey skies. This lack of direct sunlight can really affect your mood, as can being stuck in-doors for an extended period of time. For these symptoms, I make sure to take my daily vitamin D supplement and to exercise — even if it’s just inside my house. Get your yoga on or do some HIIT in the living room to get those endorphins going!
I hope these tips will be helpful and my heart goes out to anyone currently evacuated from their home, or worse have lost their home or a loved one due to wildfires. Stay safe!
NOTE: If you are experiencing symptoms of smoke inhalation please talk to your health care provider to learn what methods and remedies might work best for you.
Don’t forget about your PETS! Pets are just as susceptible to smoke inhalation as we are. Be sure to keep your kitties in-doors and if need be take your pups on a car ride to a spot that’s less smoky for their daily walks/hikes.