Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Wildfire smoke wreaks havoc on respiratory and immune systems

Picture of a military tent; an orange, smoky hue surrounds the tent and soldiers Smoke from wildfires blocks out the sun Aug. 19, 2020, at Fort Hunter Liggett. Soldiers from the California Army National Guard's 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team dealt with a heat wave and heavy smoke from nearby wildfires during a warfighter exercise at the fort. (Photo by Maj. Jason Sweeney, Army National Guard.)

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus | Disaster Prep Toolkit | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Environmental Fitness

Across much of the Western United States, residents continue to endure the current wildfire season, which has firefighters battling nearly 100 large active wildfires that have already burned nearly 5 million acres.

And where there’s fire, there’s smoke that blanketed several western cities this week. This smoke has resulted in reduced air quality and contributed to a host of associated health risks that mirror COVID-19 symptoms.

For Pacific Northwest residents, the smoke from these fires and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increased the number of respiratory and cardiovascular ailments.

At Naval Hospital Bremerton, staff continue efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Staff and beneficiaries there remain aware that prevailing winds have pushed wildfire smoke over more densely populated areas, which can cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, and aggravate existing conditions.

“Staff and patients should do their best to avoid prolonged exposure to the smoke due to the fact that it can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs,” said Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Omar Garcia-Argueta, Internal Medicine & Specialty Clinics.

State and country health advisory alerts on diminished air quality have been posted and shared to alert local populations, with NHB also taking a lead to assess those in need.

“The smoke can exacerbate any existing underlying condition,” said Navy Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton COVID-19 lead and public health emergency officer, acknowledging that both COVID-19 and wildfire smoke can damage a person’s respiratory and immune systems.

The Washington State Emergency Management Division indicate those sensitive to wildfire smoke exposure include people with heart and lung disease, existing respiratory infections, diabetes, stroke survivors, infants, children, pregnant women, and people over 65 years of age.

“Patients and staff who will be impacted the most are those who have been diagnosed with cardio-respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), pulmonary fibrosis, or heart disease,” explained Garcia-Argueta. “Asthma and COPD patients in particular should ensure that they are taking their maintenance medications as prescribed by their providers. Smoke may also impact pregnant women, the elderly population, and children. These patients and staff members should consult with their health care providers regarding specific precautions.”

“We realize that not everything is COVID-19 related, such as someone dealing with allergies, hay fever, and the flu. But there are definitely those who are more vulnerable than others,” Uniszkiewicz added.

One effective strategy being used at NHB to care for patients during the pandemic is the Drive-Through Screening and Triage process, which follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria.

Everyone— staff, patient, or visitor —who arrives on base goes through the same procedure. This is a best practice across the Military Health System and in the civilian network. The drive-thru is a safe and efficient way to effectively assess patients on their current health and wellness.

The COVID-19 screening process determines if a person in the previous 24 hours has had such symptoms as fever, cough (not allergy related), sore throat, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, and/or loss of smell or taste.

Wildfire smoke is capable of producing harmful health effects from eye, nose, and throat irritation or headaches to more severe conditions like shortness of breath, dry cough, throat soreness, chest tightness, asthma attacks, and worsening existing chronic conditions.

Experts at NHB encourage anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention. They should also continue to follow CDC guidelines for stopping the spread of COVID-19, such as staying at least 6 feet from others; washing hands often, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at home; avoiding touch the eyes, nose, or mouth; and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of an elbow.

Garcia-Argueta attests that the best recourse for avoiding wildfire smoke is to stay indoors.

“In order to prevent prolonged exposure to the wildfire smoke, one should plan to stay indoors and have both their windows and doors closed. Patients and staff members should also avoid engaging in strenuous physical activity outside and refrain from smoking,” Garcia-Argueta said.

“Our recommendation is to still wear cloth face coverings. There are going to be those who think the smoke is causing them to have trouble breathing with the air quality like it is, but they’re more susceptible to particles in the air due to being exposed to wildfire smoke,” explained Uniszkiewicz.

Garcia-Argueta also advocates basic steps for everyone to follow to protect their lungs, such as: stay indoors as much as possible; reduce strenuous activity; reduce other sources of indoor air pollution like vacuuming and frying meat; use HVAC systems to filter the air; when traveling in a vehicle, keep the windows closed, run the air conditioner and set air to ‘recirculate’ to reduce smoke.

Hot, dry conditions remain in the forecast for the region, which keeps the fire danger high. To breathe a sigh of relief, everyone should continue to heed sound medical advice from their providers and strive to keep the air around them clear.  

You also may be interested in...

Navy Hospital Corpsman steps into the breach in the war on COVID-19

Article Around MHS
1/18/2022
Hospitalman Hector Conde standing in front of a immunization office's refrigeration

First responders and those fighting on the medical battleground have earned well-deserved recognition for their efforts.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Critically ill COVID Patient Delivers Baby While on Heart-Lung Bypass

Article
1/11/2022
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hernandez and his wife, Ashley, take a family portrait with their six children. Ashley is BAMC’s first patient to give birth while on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

Hernandez, a Marine Corps spouse and mother of five, is BAMC’s first patient to give birth while on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Coronavirus

We Can Do It (1201 x 901)

Infographic
1/10/2022
Rosie the Riveter wearing a face mask

We can do it: Simple measures can protect you and your community. Wear a mask, get vaccinated, and check out where and when you can get your booster! https://tricare.mil/coronavirus

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Prevent COVID-19

We Can Do It (1081 x 1081)

Infographic
1/10/2022
Rosie the Riveter wearing a face mask

We can do it: Simple measures can protect you and your community. Wear a mask, get vaccinated, and check out where and when you can get your booster! https://tricare.mil/coronavirus

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Prevent COVID-19

Quarantine vs Isolation

Infographic
1/10/2022
Quarantine vs. Isolation infographic

Been exposed or feeling symptoms of COVID-19? Make sure you understand the difference between quarantine and isolation to keep your community safe. https://tricare.mil/coronavirus

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Prevent COVID-19

We Have the Tools

Infographic
1/10/2022
We have the tools to fight COVID-19 infographic

We have the tools to fight: Protect yourself and your community from the spread of COVID-19 with the right tools. Make sure you wear your mask, get vaccinated, and find your nearest testing site. Learn more https://tricare.mil/coronavirus

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Prevent COVID-19

DHA Form 236: Pediatric (5-11 years) COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Immunization Documentation, v5

Form/Template
1/7/2022

This form is used to determine if the COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to the pediatric patient. (Version 5, January 2022)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Children's Health | Immunization Healthcare

Got Your 6 - Jan. 3, 2022

Video
1/4/2022
‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, on days that end in ‘6.’ It includes the latest information about DOD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil

‘Got Your 6’ is TRICARE’s COVID vaccine video series that delivers important information and updates, on days that end in ‘6.’ It includes the latest information about DOD vaccine distribution, the TRICARE health benefit, and vaccine availability. Got a question about ‘Got Your 6’? Send an email to dha.ncr.comm.mbx.dha-internal-communications@mail.mil Find your local military provider at tricare.mil/MTF, or go to tricare.mil/vaccineappointments and schedule yours today!

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

This is my Why

Article Around MHS
12/30/2021
Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock poses for a photo after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination

Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock stated his reason for getting the vaccine was to help his mother and son be able to have a play date again.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

Development of WRAIR’s Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine Shows Promise

Article
12/28/2021
A vial of spike ferritin nanoparticle WRAIR's COVID-19 vaccine

Series of preclinical studies supports the Army’s pan-coronavirus vaccine development strategy

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Don’t Underestimate Mother Nature: Winter Safety Tips for Cold Weather

Article
12/23/2021
Military Personnel training

Don’t fool with Mother Nature in the winter: Be prepared

Recommended Content:

Environmental Fitness | Winter Safety | Total Force Fitness

Immunization Experts are Central to COVID-19 Vaccine Program

Article
12/20/2021
Medical director at Fort Riley, Kansas receives a COVID-19 vaccination In his left arm from a tech in personal protective equipment.

Immunization Health Division at forefront of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Military Health System Marks 1-Year Anniversary for COVID Vaccinations

Article
12/14/2021
FEmale Marine gets COVID 19 vaccination in left  arm at Camp LeJeune in December 2020

More than 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered a year after first shots within MHS.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

So others may breathe - Navy Medicine Respiratory Therapist cares for COVID casualties

Article Around MHS
12/13/2021
Military Health personnel posing for a picture

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tessa Hazard, a respiratory therapist, recently deployed to Alabama as a member of a COVID-19 response team.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Army Public Health Center provides update on Long COVID risks

Article Around MHS
12/1/2021
COVID19 Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 68

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.