If wildfires become a concern for you or someone you care about, 98point6 physicians are available 24/7, on-demand and nationwide with medical guidance and support. 98point6 is not intended for emergencies.
WHY FIRES ARE A CONCERN
Thanks to warmer, drier climate conditions across the globe, “wildfire season,” which traditionally peaks in August and September, is becoming a year-round threat. In the U.S., the fires themselves are also getting bigger and consuming more acreage, particularly in the west—meaning more smoke and pollutants are spreading across more states and affecting more people than ever before.
With the burning of trees, vegetation and building materials, a complex mixture of potentially dangerous gases and microscopic particles are released into the atmosphere. Both the particles, which have the ability to penetrate deep into the lungs, and the smoke can cause a variety of health symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
The overall risk is highest if you live in close proximity to an active wildlife fire, where the smoke will be heaviest. Within that population and beyond, those especially susceptible include:
- Pregnant individuals and their developing babies
- Anyone with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease
- Anyone with a history of chronic respiratory illness (including asthma and COPD)
HOW YOU CAN TAKE CHARGE
If you live in or near an area prone to fires, it’s important to have a plan in place in advance of the dry season. Factors to consider:
- If you or a family member is in one of the higher risk groups, consult a physician. Ask about specific symptoms that may be of concern if and when wildfires start, and ask them to prescribe any medications or refills that may be needed.
- Read up on how you can prepare your home, from stocking up on non-perishable food and bottled water to clearing flammable objects and materials from a radius around your house.
- Update emergency and first aid kits at home and in your car. If you wear contact lenses, it’s not a bad idea to keep an old pair of glasses handy in your glove compartment, backpack or purse.
Should wildfire threats become a reality:
- Regularly monitor air quality reports, like this nationwide resource from the EPA, as well as local visibility guides (which assess levels of particles in the air).
- Pay attention to the news for pending public health messages, evacuation instructions and road blockages.
- Be informed about precautions to stay indoors to best protect yourself. For example, experts advise against cooking with gas or burning candles, which could contribute to indoor air pollution, or running the vacuum, which would further stir up dust particles that may have gotten into your home. If you have to go outside, change your clothes and consider rinsing out your eyes when you return indoors.
- Be mindful. Seek immediate care if you or someone in your household experiences any of the following symptoms:
- A cough that is persistent or worsening
- Unusual shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Significant weakness or fatigue
HOW 98POINT6 CAN HELP
The wildfires are unpredictable, but if and when they do strike, our U.S.-based, board-certified physicians are available for non-emergency medical assistance including:
- Diagnosis and treatment of milder symptoms associated with the smoke, such as cough or sore throat
- Refills of asthma or COPD medications, such as inhalers
- Prescription of a peak flow meter to better monitor lung function
- Answers to general questions about the short- and long-term effects of smoke exposure
- Advice on symptoms to watch out for, such as chest pain or tightness
- Recommending air filters and how to best use them in your home
If you, your family or friends have been displaced by wildfires or live in areas prone to wildfires, download 98point6 for 24/7 access to care for mild symptoms or general health questions. 98point6 is not for emergencies.