Temperatures have hit record highs in many locations in the U.S. in recent years. Hot, dry conditions can fuel more intense wildfire seasons. We’ve experienced an increasing number of significant wildfires across the country.
How vulnerable is your home and neighborhood to wildfires? How vulnerable are you and your family to the health impacts of wildfire smoke? Susan Fitzgerald, MD, emergency medicine physician
A recent analysis by the Stanford Environmental Change and Human Outcomes Lab reported that 2023 qualified as the worst smoke exposure season in the U.S. since 2006. The smoke wildfires produce can affect people who live hundreds of miles away from the fire.
“You need to know your risks on many levels,” said Susan Fitzgerald, MD, emergency medicine physician for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.
According to Dr. Fitzgerald the pollution from wildfire smoke, which contains fine particulate matter, can travel deep into the respiratory tract, and pass into the bloodstream. “It’s dangerous for anyone to breathe in, and people with certain health conditions face additional risks.”
Your mental health can also be affected by wildfires. For people who have lost homes, been evacuated due to fire, or had fires in their yards, the emotional effects can be like the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. People who already have mental health conditions are susceptible to increased symptoms due to the unstable environment.
Even if you don’t live in an area affected by wildfires, it’s possible to feel anxious or upset when hearing the devastating stories of people experiencing loss from fires.
Sign up for emergency alerts in your area. State emergency management offices for Kaiser Permanente areas are:
Find assistance programs in your area using the Kaiser Permanente Community Support Hub,
If you are unable to afford your weatherization expenses, contact the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for help.
The American Red Cross has more tips on what you should do before, during, and after wildfires.