Last year saw a significant increase in wildfires both in the US and Canada. You may remember that the Canadian wildfires sent smoke and particulate matter across much of the upper United States including right here in central Pennsylvania. Last year it was common for many of our patients to complain of increased cough and shortness of breath directly related to the worsening air quality.

Wildfires produce harmful emissions including f ine particulate matter and the question many patients asked is what they can do during these times of increased symptoms particularly since there is a clear relationship between the rise in the pollution we can see (smoke) and the pollution we cannot (particulate matter).

There are limited options since you cannot really change the outside environment. For those patients most severely affected by these inhaled pollutants the only current good answer is to try and change the inside or home environment. The use of high-efficiency particulate air filters or HEPAs has been proposed as a possible way to help patients most severely affected control their interior home air quality. These filters can remove 99.97% of small particles. Locally, if we have another wildfire season affecting patients with lung disease consider the use of these air filters in your home. You many need to contact your local heating and air conditioning contractor for help with using these types of filters.

I’m hoping this article acts as an early warning for later this year. Predictions are for another severe wildfire season