As much as we hate to say it, fires occur on a regular basis in any city.

Building fires make up a large percentage of the blazes that erupt within city limits, however, automobile and brush fires are not unheard of.

While flames pose an obvious risk, the smoke produced by a fire is also a hazard as it lowers the quality of the air that we all breathe and can cause serious health complications as a result.

Here is some information regarding the impact that smoke from a fire has on your health, along with tips on how you can minimize your exposure to smoke.

What is Smoke?

Smoke is derived from a complex mixture of different gases and microscopic particles that are created when wood, fuel, plastics or other synthetic materials burn.

How does breathing smoke impact my health?

The microscopic particles of smoke often cause eye, nose and throat irritation, although these symptoms are typically short-lived in healthy individuals. In more serious cases, exposure to smoke can lead to shortness of breath, chest pains, asthma attacks or bronchitis. Those with heart or lung diseases typically experience more severe symptoms as the smoke aggravates their condition.

Do I need to see my doctor if I have been exposed to smoke from a fire?

If you are experiencing minor irritation, then it is usually not necessary to visit your doctor as the symptoms will fade after a short period of time. However, if you have a pre-existing lung or heart condition or you are suffering from more serious symptoms like the ones listed above, then you should seek medical help immediately.

How can I protect myself from smoke?

You can minimize your exposure to smoke by staying indoors and keeping windows closed (granted you are not within fire’s reach). If your house has air conditioning, closing the fresh air intake on it will keep contaminated outdoor air from entering your home. If you are in close proximity to a large fire, wearing face masks will offer extra protection.

Do air purifiers help remove smoke?

Air purifiers that are equipped with a carbon filter as well as a HEPA (or similar grade) filter can help improve the air quality in your home as they absorb smoke, odors and other airborne chemicals. Just keep in mind that no air purifier can remove ALL pollutants from the air, and majority of air purifiers are designed to simply remove particles and nothing more. Do a little research to find the air purifier that will suit your particular needs.

Should I have the air quality in my home tested if there’s a fire nearby?

Having the air quality in your home tested is usually unnecessary as the health risks presented by a nearby structural fire is typically low and short-lived. However, it is worthy to note that items made up of porous materials (like fabrics or cloth-covered furniture) have the tendency to absorb smoke odors and may require cleaning to remove them.