Smoke inhalation can cause many health problems, especially in those with weakened immune systems or those with chronic conditions.

Here is what you need to know about the short-term and long-term symptoms you can get from smoke inhalation from wildfires, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and various medical journals.

How can smoke from wildfires cause health problems?

Air pollution from wildfire smoke can cause respiratory issues in anyone. However, it is especially an issue for young children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and people with chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma.

“It’s an almost immediate effect,” Dr. Aida Capo, a pulmonologist from Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey, told NBC News. “If you’re outside for any length of time, your symptoms can start and can worsen quickly.”

What are some of the short-term symptoms that can occur from wildfire smoke inhalation?

The following short-term symptoms can occur from inhaling wildfire smoke, according to the EPA:

  • Irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract
  • Coughing
  • Phlegm
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing

What are some of the long-term effects of wildfire smoke inhalation?

Some studies have shown that there are long-term effects of continued exposure to wildfire smoke.

This increased exposure can lead to chronic conditions, such as the following:

  • Heart disease/failure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Severe asthma
  • Preterm birth
  • Lung cancer
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Dementia

How can you prevent exposure to wildfire smoke?

Dr. Shilpa Patel, medical director of Children’s National IMPACT DC Asthma Clinic in Washington, told CNN that people should minimize outdoor activities that require deep breathing.

Dr. Capo says that in cases of severe air pollution, “the recommendation is not to be outside, but if you want to wear a mask to help, absolutely wear one and then make sure it is an N95, not a surgical mask.

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