Forest fires are common occurrences experienced in many parts of the world. The smoke from such fires is a complex mixture of harmful gases, including carbon monoxide and tiny particles that can cause irritations to the respiratory system, leading to systemic inflammation. This can be an ongoing concern as the affected area’s air quality often remains bad for several days to weeks.
Such fires harm not only wildlife but people, especially those that make up much of their day working outdoors, such as the case with construction workers. Although some people are not sensitive to wildfire smoke, it is advisable to avoid breathing it whenever you can.
Why Wildfire Smoke Makes You Sick. Wildfire smoke has particles from the burning vegetation and construction materials mixed with gases. For construction workers, it is easy for tiny particles from their building materials to get airborne, which is a big concern for their health. The first symptom you might notice is stinging in your eyes; an indication that the exposure from the smoke is actually causing a reaction. At this point, particulates could also be getting into your respiratory system.
Prolonged exposure to smoke can lead to chest pains, increased heartbeat, wheezing, or an asthma attack. Apart from coughing and labored breathing, you might also experience symptoms that are similar to those related to a sinus infection. All these happen because the smoke is messing with your respiratory system.
Who Is More Likely To See an Effect from Wildfire Smoke?
• Construction workers
• People with lung diseases like asthma
• People predisposed to heart attacks and stroke
• Those with respiratory infections like pneumonia, flu, cold, and acute bronchitis
• Pregnant mothers together with their unborn babies
• Diabetics due to the fact that they are predisposed to cardiovascular diseases
• Infants and children under the age of 18 since their airways and lungs are still developing. (They also tend to breathe more air per pound of their body weight than adults.)
• People who are over 65 years old, as they have a likelihood of suffering from unrecognized lung and heart diseases.
• Smokers, as they are likely to have existing lung diseases.
How to Tell If Wildfire Smoke Is Affecting You. If you are a construction worker who spends most of your time working outdoors, the chances of you getting affected by wildfire smoke are very high. Look out for the following symptoms such as
• Coughs, irritated sinuses, sore throat, headaches, chest pains, stinging eyes, shortness of breath, and a runny nose
• If you have a lung or heart disease, the smoke might worsen your symptoms
• If you are asthmatic or have major allergies, wildfire smoke might make the symptoms worse. You will experience wheezing, chest pains, dry or wet coughs, and shallow breathing.
• Those with heart diseases will have chest pains, exhaustion, and irregular heartbeat.
• If the smoke levels are high, even healthy people will get symptoms and health problems
Always contact your doctor if you have a heart condition and get exposed to smoke.
How to Minimize Health Effects. It is essential to take care of your health, especially if you are a construction worker who has to spend endless hours working outdoors. Some of the important measures you should always have in place include:
• Use breathing masks that have filtration efficiency against non-oil based particles, easy to breathe through, and are comfortable to work in. Remember that surgical and one strap paper masks do not protect you from wildfire smoke.
• If you have a chronic illness, always have proper medication at all times and have an alternative plan in case your medication fails to arrest the condition
• Avoid doing extraneous jobs when outdoors as the amount of smoke you breathe in increases with your heightened breathing rate
• Keep yourself well hydrated as this will help your body deal with inflammation
• Quit smoking as this will only worsen the situation
• Limit your outdoor activity whenever there is heavy smoke
• Go for a respiratory diseases prevention training whenever you get a chance.
Wildfires are a big concern for construction workers. Their jobs require you to work outdoors most of the times, which means you are predisposed to all the bad effects of the smoke and you get a lot more of it than people working indoors with air filtration.
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