When wildfires burn, small particles are released into the air and these are potentially harmful if we breath them in. For the general population the concern is about long-term exposure, which can be damaging over time. With all this smoke around us, the most important thing we can do is to limit our exposure. That means staying inside and keeping windows closed when possible. For individuals with lung or other medical conditions, and for older adults and younger children, even brief exposure to smoke can be serious and these groups need to take extra precautions.
Anne Stowell of Teladoc, which provides over-the-phone treatment for Blue Shield of California, said "while we typically see visits drop off in the summer months, this year we’ve seen an increase in visits in California overall during the period that the fires have spread. And, while respiratory issues are one of the main reasons Californians contact Teladoc throughout the year, respiratory issues are a leading diagnosis over the past week as well."
Health tips when dealing with poor air quality:
- Be informed. Local and national resources help us know the conditions around us, and what we should and shouldn’t be doing to stay healthy. Among them: https://www.airnow.gov/ and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
- Limit exposure. Choose indoor activities when possible until the air clears up.
- Be prepared. Make sure that ----if you take medications---you have them filled and on hand. Those with asthma may need to use more of their prescribed “rescue” inhalers when the air quality is poor.
- Get help. If you are having difficulty breathing, or experiencing other serious symptoms, seek medical attention right away.
- Help each other. It is normal to be worried and stressed by what is happening around us. Reaching out to neighbors or pulling together donations for fire-relief efforts, are ways that we can work together to help our community and to feel better ourselves.
For more advice regarding dealing with air quality issue: The Centers for Disease Control.
For more on what Blue Shield of California is doing to help communities affected by the fires see this story.
The standard use number for Blue Shield of California members to use Teladoc is 1-800-835-2362.
The number for individuals displaced by the wildfires is 1-855-225-5032.
Malaika Stoll, M.D., is senior medical director for Blue Shield of California. She leads the nonprofit health plan’s team of regional medical directors who work with local providers to ensure Blue Shield members have access to quality, affordable care.