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Breathing Easy in the Flames: Your Complete Guide to Protecting Your Health During Forest Fire Season


Introduction


For the past two decades, I resided in the Western USA (Arizona, Washington, & Montana), where every summer and fall were marked by recurring forest fires. Insufficient funding for forest management at the state and federal levels in the USA has contributed significantly to this issue. Nowadays, forest fire season has become a regular occurrence in the mountain west and northwest regions. 


However, forest fires are not limited to North America’s Wild Western regions. At this very moment, devastating forest fires are raging in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, Canada. Forest fire season is a regular occurrence in many parts of North America, and it’s essential to safeguard your health and that of your loved ones. Below you will learn effective strategies to prevent exposure to toxic air and manage the impact of particulate matter during forest fire season.

In several cities of the northeastern US states, including Rochester, NY, New York City, Burlington, Vermont, and Philadelphia, PA, the air quality levels are currently reported to be 10 times higher than the safety standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). If you’re concerned about protecting yourself and your family during these challenging times, this comprehensive guide is here to assist you!


Certain groups of people are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of the toxic air caused by forest fires. These include children, the elderly, individuals with lung diseases such as asthma and COPD, and those with cardiovascular disease. Moreover, individuals diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) face an increased risk of adverse reactions to the particulate matter (PM 2.5) and other toxins released from forest fire smoke.

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with any of the aforementioned conditions, it is crucial that you share this information with them and continue reading for valuable insights.


Prevent Exposure

  • Stay indoors, especially if you have lung conditions, cardiovascular disease, or chemical sensitivities.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities until air quality improves.
  • Keep windows closed throughout the day and night during forest fire season.
  • Change HVAC filters regularly and opt for high-quality filters.
  • Consider using air conditioning in your home depending on the outdoor temperature.
  • Filter the air with recommended air filters that can remove PM 2.5 particles.
  • Monitor your pulse oxygen saturation daily if you have a lung disease.
  • Wear an N99 mask when required to be outdoors.


Manage Particulate Matter in the Air

  • Stay hydrated by drinking at least 80-100 ounces of water per day with added electrolytes. I prefer the concentrace brand of trace minerals added to my water.
  • Keep car windows closed and use the air conditioning if needed with air recirculation mode while driving.
  • Avoid using a vacuum to prevent stirring up particulate matter indoors.
  • Use a humidifier to alleviate dry air and assist in weighing down particulate matter.


Seek Preemptive Medical Care & Be Medically Prepared

  • Contact your doctor if you experience breathing problems or health issues related to forest fire smoke.
  • Ensure you have the necessary medications to keep your airways open and functional.
  • For instance, be prepared: if you require an oxygen concentrator or oxygen tank to keep a patent airway then make sure they are maintained and your oxygen tank is filled prior to forest fire season.
  • Consider consulting with a licensed Naturopathic Doctor (NMD) for an integrative approach to lung and heart health during forest fire season.


Enhance Your Internal Response with Natural Medicines & Antioxidants

Explore herbs and nutraceuticals recommended by a clinical herbalist or licensed Naturopathic Doctor. Below are my basic starting recommendations to consider: 

  • Elecampane root and/or Marshmallow root cold extracts. Dosing: 1 tablespoon per 1 cup of cold water, mix and drink daily away from food, medications, and other supplements. 
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) to boost glutathione levels. N-AC is an amino acid that helps you increase a super antioxidant in your brain, liver, and other areas of your body called glutathione. Glutathione is protective to the lungs and liver. 
  • Liposomal vitamin C and glutathione for antioxidant support. 1 gram 3-5 times/day to bowel tolerance of vitamin C. Antioxidants assist with removing toxins from the body. 
  • Frankincense (Boswellia sp.), Baikal Skullcap (aka – Chinese skullcap), and Hawthorn Berry extracts. Hawthorn Berry Solid Extract is starting dosing may look like a frequency of 2-3x per day for lungs & heart support & antioxidants. 
  • Magnesium glycinate for muscle relaxation. Generally speaking, most adults can start with about 350 mg – 500 mg daily dose of magnesium glycinate and some can dose up to 1,000 mg. Dose magnesium to bowel tolerance. 
  • Eat Organic dark-colored berries for increased antioxidant intake. 1-2 cups daily to increase antioxidant levels. 


Note & medical disclaimer: Consult a trained herbalist or naturopathic doctor to ensure safety and suitability based on your health and medical history. Not all natural products are created equal. You need to check all-natural products to ensure they are Good Manufacturing Practice Certified (GMP) and ideally, they have other certifications to prove their quality control standards are higher than just GMP, such as NSF certification or even ISO/IEC laboratory accreditation. 


Conclusion

Please share this valuable information with friends and family, especially those residing in areas prone to forest fires.

  • Stay informed, take necessary precautions, and prioritize your health during forest fire season.

Remember, safeguarding your health during forest fire season is essential, so follow these tips and consult professionals when needed. Share this guide to help others protect themselves too. Stay safe and breathe easy!


Free forest fire resources


Home air portable filter:


Written by Dr. Sam Madeira, NMD & Clinical Herbalist, June 7th, 2023. 

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