Coping With the Effects of Wildfires: A Guide for Seniors

July 3, 2023

As wildfires become increasingly prevalent in many regions of North America, the accompanying smoke poses significant health risks for residents. However, seniors, with their potentially compromised respiratory systems and underlying health conditions, may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of smoke exposure. If you or a loved one are currently experiencing poor air quality due to the Canadian wildfires, here are some tips to help you stay healthy and safe: 

Stay informed. 

Keep yourself updated on the local air quality conditions and wildfire situation through reliable sources such as the local news, weather apps, or websites. Authorities often issue alerts and advisories when smoke levels are high, helping you make informed decisions regarding your activities and precautions. 

Create a clean indoor environment.

Ensure your home provides a safe haven from the smoke-filled outdoors. Implement the following measures to improve indoor air quality:

  • Seal the house: Close windows, doors, and any other openings to prevent smoke from entering. Use weather stripping or tape to seal gaps.
  • Use air purifiers: Invest in high-quality HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) purifiers to filter out smoke particulates and other pollutants. Place them in commonly used areas like bedrooms and living rooms. 
  • Circulate air effectively: If the outdoor air quality allows, use fans and air conditioning units to recirculate and filter the indoor air. However, ensure the filters are clean and regularly replaced.
  • Minimize indoor pollution sources: Avoid activities that can contribute to indoor pollution, such as smoking, burning candles, or using harsh cleaning products. 

Limit outdoor exposure.

Reducing outdoor exposure is crucial to minimize smoke inhalation. Follow these guidelines:

  • Stay indoors: Whenever possible, remain indoors, especially during periods of heightened smoke exposure. Opt for indoor activities and hobbies that you enjoy. 
  • Avoid physical exertion: Engaging in strenuous activities can lead to increased breathing rates and deeper inhalation, increasing the intake of harmful smoke particles. Opt for light exercises or indoor stretching routines instead. 
  • Choose appropriate masks: If you need to go outside, wear N95 or N99 masks specifically designed to filter fine particulate matter. Ensure the mask fits properly, covering both your nose and mouth. 

Maintain optimal health.

Taking care of your overall health can bolster your resilience against smoke-related health risks:

  • Follow prescribed medication regimens: Adhere to your medication regimen and consult with your healthcare provider for any specific concerns regarding smoke exposure and your existing conditions. 
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your respiratory system moisturized and help flush out toxins. 
  • Eat a balanced diet: Consuming nutrients rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants can enhance your immune system and promote overall well-being. 
  • Prioritize rest and sleep: Getting adequate rest and quality sleep allows your body to revolver and strengthens your immune system.

Seek support and assistance. 

Reach out to family, friends, or neighbors for support during periods of heavy smoke. Engage in conversations, share concerns, and explore possible strategies together. In cases where smoke exposure severely impacts your health, consider relocating temporarily to an area with better air quality.

While heavy smoke from fires poses challenges for seniors, taking proactive steps to cope with these conditions is essential. By staying informed, creating a clean indoor environment, limiting outdoor exposure, maintaining optimal health, and seeking support, seniors can navigate through periods of heavy smoke and prioritize their well-being. Remember, your health and safety should remain your top priority. 

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