Whether you have asthma or not, being exposed to smoke from a fire can impact your health. However, it turns out that what type of fire is burning changes how much your health, particularly related to airway problems, is affected. This was found by a 2019 study, which we review more about below.
About the Study
The study was published in October 2019 in the journal Allergy. It is called “The Impact of Prescribed Fire versus Wildfire on the Immune and Cardiovascular Systems of Children.”
For the study, researchers collected data from 7-year olds in Fresno, California. They collected the data three months after each burn and analyzed it to see the health impacts of a controlled burn versus a wildfire. Those who were exposed to the controlled burn were 70 miles away from the site, and those who were exposed to the wildfire were 90 miles away from the site.
Among those exposed to smoke from the controlled burn, 38% had asthma, and among those exposed to smoke from the wildfire, 25% had asthma.
According to the study authors, “There was a trend toward worsened health outcomes in the wildfire group compared to the prescribed group, including increases in wheezing episodes in those with no prior history of asthma, increases in asthma exacerbations in those with prior asthma, and rises in pulse pressure.”
This is likely because controlled burns are only performed during optimal weather conditions, so people are exposed to less smoke.
The Importance of Controlled Burns
Many people have concerns about controlled burns, but they have been shown to be a critical tool to increase the resilience and health of fire-prone forests. With a better understanding of the benefits of controlled burns, in particular how they have less impact on our children’s health, there could be more support for this practice to keep our forests and citizens safe.
How Does Smoke Trigger Asthma Symptoms?
Smoke triggers irritation in the airways, causing them to swell, narrow and become filled with mucus. This mimics what happens during an asthma attack: you’ll start coughing, wheezing and experiencing tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. If there is smoke in your area, we recommend staying indoors and running an air purifier to prevent symptoms.
For more information or to schedule an appointment with an asthma expert, call Charleston ENT & Allergy today.