Wildfires have hit hard California this month with power blackouts and record temperatures all in the middle of the pandemic, that has taken the world by storm. People have been wearing masks to limit the spread of the virus, but now as these wildfires burn across California, they will need to wear face masks to protect themselves from smoke too as according to the doctors, the smoke being pumped out of the wildfires may worsen coronavirus symptoms.
Three doctors in California warn the citizens that wildfire smoke will worsen coronavirus symptoms as it could lead to asthma and other respiratory issues. Assistant professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco Dr. Stephanie Christenson said the smoke particles that are being spread from the wildfires could spread for hundreds of miles and could damage the lungs.
Dr. Christenson said that the wildfire particles are 20 to 30 times smaller than a hair follicle’s diameter and it can get in and lodge deep in the lungs and cause inflammation. She added that as people get more severely infected by the coronavirus, the inflammation in their lungs overwhelms the system, which could cause really severe issues. The smoke particles probably worsen coronavirus symptoms, but it is not certain according to Dr. Christenson.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but cloth masks are not effective against smoke particles. Dr. John Balmes, who is a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, said that its important to remind people that the cloth face coverings people are using to protect against covid19, do not protect from wildfire smoke exposure.
The best type of face mask that filters out 95% of the hazardous matter is N95 masks but they are short in supply right now due to the pandemic. If people cannot get access to either a surgical mask or an N95 they should wear the cloth mask because according to Balmes the most important thing right now is to protect others from coronavirus transmission. Dr. Jahan Fahimi, medical director of the University of California San Francisco Emergency Department said people infected with the coronavirus, when get irritated by wildfire smoke particles may sneeze and cough and spread the virus, so it is very important for people to wear face masks.
The CDC recommends limiting time spent outside, using heat pumps, a portable air cleaner, windows shades, air conditioners, fans, and avoiding increasing pollution by using gas appliances, frying food, sweeping, or vacuuming. People who are more vulnerable from smoke effects include pregnant women, people with health conditions including diabetes, lung disease, and asthma, children under the age of 18, adults aged 65 or older, those who are taking drugs suppressing the immune system, people of lower socioeconomic status and outdoor workers.
The executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District Jack Broadbent said that unfortunately, wildfire continues to burn through the Bay Area and smoky conditions are expected for several days. He added that respiratory health is at the top of the minds of all the people during the pandemic so it’s crucial that people take precautionary steps to avoid exposure to the unhealthy air.