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Smoke gets in your eyes—and lungs

This has been a ferociously brutal summer for wildfires in Canada and the U.S. So far, more than 37 million acres have burned in Canada and nearly 2 million in the U.S., including states and the province where 11 of Touchmark’s 14 communities are located. According to reports, humans have caused most of the wildfires, which continue to be fanned by the Earth’s changing climate.

While Touchmark’s communities have been spared the heartbreaking tragedies of many towns, people’s daily lives have been—and continue to be—affected in many areas. Furthermore, weather and fire forecasts indicate these (and new) fires will burn for many more weeks, if not months.

Increasingly, health providers are sounding the alarm about the health effects of wildfire smoke, particularly the micro particulates that enter our lungs and bloodstream. “These small particles of dust, soot, and other chemicals can cause both short- and long-term adverse health consequences,” says Touchmark Vice President of Clinical Services Angela Stewart. “We can see the haze and smell and even taste the change in air quality.”

To stay healthy during these conditions, she offers the following advice:

  • Check the Air Quality Index (AQI) before working or playing outdoors.
  • Wear an N95 mask if you do venture outside.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors if the AQI is between 51-100 (Moderate).
  • Limit all outdoor activity if the AQI is over 101 (Unhealthy).
  • Keep windows and doors closed.
  • Run an air conditioner and/or use an air filter to recirculate the indoor air.
  • Drink copious amounts of water.

“By keeping the lungs, bronchial tubes, and nasal passages moist, fresh water allows for better breathing,” says Angela. “You’ll be able to breathe cleaner air as a result.”

Not in the habit of drinking water? Here are her tips to increase your fluids:

  • Carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
  • Flavor your water with fruit and avoid sugary drinks.
  • Establish a routine, such as drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, when you eat a meal, use the bathroom, and before, during, and after exercising.
  • Track your water intake using one of many apps or pencil and paper, whatever works for you.
  • Eat foods with high water content, including fruits, vegetables, low-sodium broth, low-sugar fruit pops, etc.
  • Reduce or limit alcohol and caffeine.

“We need to correct the mental soundtrack of drinking less to avoid using the restroom more. That’s a misconception. Our bodies need water. After all, most of the human body is water!”