Wildfire smoke could make you more prone to catching Covid, health authorities warn

Smoke particles make lung infections more likely

Samuel Webb
Thursday 12 August 2021 12:48
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'It is a catastrophe': Wildfires rage as Sicily reaches record-breaking 48.8 degrees Celsius

Medical experts have issued a health warning over smoke from wildfires – warning that it could make people more prone to catching Covid-19.

Blazes are raging across Europe and North America, fed by scorching temperatures and dry conditions and causing untold misery.

Now health authorities have issued a warning over the threat presented fine particles in smoke.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states: “These microscopic particles can penetrate deep into your lungs.

“They can cause a range of health problems, from burning eyes and a runny nose to aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases. Exposure to particle pollution is even linked to premature death.

“Close to the fires, smoke is a health risk because it contains a mixture of hazardous gases and small particles that can irritate the eyes and respiratory system.

“The effects of smoke exposure and inhalation range from eye and respiratory tract irritation to more serious disorders, including reduced lung function, bronchitis, exacerbated asthma and premature death. Exposure to particulate matter is the main public health threat from short-term exposure to wildfire smoke.”

An overview of Greenville, California, before and after the wildfires started

The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in the US adds: “Wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Current evidence shows that the effects of heatwaves on mortality are greater on days with high levels of fine particulate matter, the WHO states.

Older people, people with cardiorespiratory diseases or chronic illnesses, children, and people who work outdoors are particularly vulnerable to the combined effects of heatwaves and air pollution.

Scientists warn rising global temps due to greenhouse gas emissions are increasing the risk of fire conditions across the planet.

Parts of Europe are enduring severe heatwaves, while hot, bone-dry gusty weather has caused devastating wildfires in California. The US state is fighting to contain the largest blaze in its history.

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