New York City's skyline was partially shrouded by the orange smoke haze in June from Canadian wildfires.

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Covid brain” tossed around, and research suggests that some survivors of the Maui wildfires will face “fire brain,” due to both the trauma and the inhalation of smoke particles.

Covid brain, more properly brain fog, is one of Long Covid’s most misunderstood symptoms and has gained traction to encompass and refer to a range of symptoms that include feeling slow, difficulty in thinking or concentrating, confusion and forgetfulness.

There is a growing body of research that suggests that breathing in tiny particles from wildfire smoke can cause cognitive deficits.  These typically surface within six to 12 months, although sometimes it takes more time for these to make their appearance.

Research over the past decade suggests that Maui wildfire survivors will face a number of cognitive challenges but it is too soon to tell how this will play out.

Some survivors of past wildfires referred to their condition as “fire brain” and the label stuck.

Indeed, research suggests that survivors of the Maui wildfires face a long road of physical and cognitive challenges because of trauma and breathing in smoke particles.

A study of the Camp Fire survivors found that more than those directly exposed to the smoke had symptoms of post-traumatic stress as well as a cognitive deficit in warding off distractions that impair individuals from focusing on a task.

What’s happening here is at least partially clear: The body responds to the particulate matter an individual breathes in with inflammatory responses, which in turn can affect brain processes.  Exactly how, however, remains an open question.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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