Wildfire smoke has acute cardiorespiratory impact, but long-term effects still under study


Advising vulnerable patients

While research in this field advances, the unforgiving wildfire season looms, assuring more destruction of property and threats to cardiorespiratory health. “There are a lot of questions that research will have an opportunity to address as we go forward, including the utility and the benefit of N95 masks, the utility of HEPA filters used in the house, and even with HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] systems,” Dr. Cascio said. “Can we really clean up the indoor air well enough to protect us from wildfire smoke?”

The way he sees it, the time is ripe for clinicians and officials in public and private practice settings to refine how they distribute information to people living in areas affected by wildfire smoke. “We can’t force people do anything, but at least if they’re informed, then they understand they can make an informed decision about how they might want to affect what they do that would limit their exposure,” he said. “As a patient, my health care system sends text and email messages to me. So, why couldn’t the hospital send out a text message or an email to all of the patients with COPD, coronary disease, and heart failure when an area is impacted by smoke, saying, ‘Check your air quality and take action if air quality is poor?’ Physicians don’t have time to do this kind of education in the office for all of their patients. I know that from experience. But if one were to only focus on those at highest risk, and encourage them to follow our guidelines, which might include doing HEPA filter treatment in the home, we probably would reduce the number of clinical events in a cost-effective way.”


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