SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Smoke from this wildfire season is responsible for multiple weeks of unhealthy air quality in the Bay Area.
Doctors at UCSF say research shows prolonged exposure to smoke can increase the risks of developing a host of chronic diseases.
“When you get particulate matter into the unhealthy and hazardous range, that can cause many different kinds of symptoms,” Dr. Stephanie Christenson said.
UCSF assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care Dr. Stephanie Christenson describes the common symptoms from breathing wildfire smoke.
“Shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, sore throat, runny nose, headache, dizziness, palpitations,” Christenson said.
However, extended exposure to smoke during wildfire season is still being studied by medical professionals. The initial findings are cause for concern.
“There are a couple of small studies that if you live around wildfire smoke for long periods of time exposed to this hazardous particulate matter at high levels for a long time that does impact lung function. That seems to be the case over at least a couple of years. We also have notes from other studies looking at air pollution. Looking at areas where air pollution, in general, is bad, say from bad traffic or exposure to factories, that we know air pollution in general in which wildfire is a subset can lead to increased risks of developing asthma, COPD, heart disease, cancers,” Christenson said.
The best option to protect your health? Reducing your exposure to wildfire smoke by staying indoors as much as possible.
“There is no magic wand. Certainly, if you got an underlying health condition, make sure that you’re taking your medication, that could be a magic wand to prevent you from getting worse problems,” Christenson said.