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Smoke from wildfires can cause serious health concerns for people who have any kind of breathing disorder. Smoky air can also cause irritation that will make other allergies seem worse than normal. Smoke from wildfires can be caught in the jet stream and travel thousands of miles. That means your health could be at risk from a fire burning in another state.
People who are allergic to tree pollens may experience an actual allergy to smoke. Trees most likely to cause an allergic reaction include mesquite, oak, cedar, and hickory. An allergy is an inappropriate response from the body’s immune system to something that is not normally harmful. When an allergen contacts the body, the immune system sends out a warning that triggers the release of antibodies to fight off the invader. Histamine is one of the most common triggers that cause many of the symptoms we associate with an allergy attack including a runny nose and red, itchy, or watery eyes.
Who is at risk?
In addition to people with smoke allergies, these people may also be at risk from wildfire smoke:
• Seniors – older lungs are not as efficient as they were when they were younger, so older people may have a harder time breathing in a smoky area.
• Pregnant women and young children – these groups breathe in more air per pound of body weight than others, so they can be affected by smoke more quickly.
• Respiratory conditions – people with asthma, COPD, emphysema, and heart disease may be at higher risk of serious breathing difficulties due to smoke.
• Colds or flu – people with respiratory infections will have a harder time breathing when air is smoky.
Wildfire smoke can cause some immediate symptoms including irritation of the eyes and nose, coughing, and a sore throat. If you have trouble breathing or have tightness in your chest, get medical help. Continued exposure to smoky air will only make these symptoms worse.