Experts say wildfire smoke increases COVID-19 risk [Video]


  • California and Oregon are enduring “unsafe” air quality levels because of the continuous wildfires that produce thick layers of smoke.
  • According to Dr. Amesh Adalja, exposure to wildfire smoke could increase the risk of contracting SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • A person’s mucosa, the tissue lining inside the body, can become dry and inflamed when exposed to wildfire smoke. This makes one’s body more vulnerable to COVID-19 since it would be easier for SARS-CoV-2 to enter, Dr. Raymond Casciari, a pulmonologist, said.

Covered with thick layers of smoke, the Western part of the US is continuously being confronted by raging wildfires which put residents’ health at risk. According to Purple Air, a community air quality monitoring website, many Californians were already exposed to unsafe air quality because of the fires.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has also announced that the air quality is “unhealthy.”

Issuing a warning on Twitter on Wednesday, the Office of Emergency Services of California advised the public to “limit outdoor activities and stay inside if possible.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wildfire smokes could yield serious discomfort in the lungs. It explained that such smoke is composed of a “complex mixture of gases and fine particles.”  

The agency also claimed that those particles could cause several health concerns such as burning eyes and a runny nose, and other lung issues to chronic heart illnesses.

A Pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, Dr. Raymond Casciari told Yahoo Life: “The biggest concern with wildfire smoke is fine particles. They can penetrate deep into your lungs.”

Casciari said that smoke from a wildfire could make the mucosa, the tissue lining inside a human body, become dry and inflamed.

“Your mucosa becomes vulnerable and that makes it easier for SARS-CoV-2 to enter into your cells and body,” he explained.

Casciari recommended to “drink plenty of water to stay hydrated so that your mucosa stays hydrated.” He also suggested to just use air conditioning (if available), and keep the doors and windows closed.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, also said that exposure to wildfire smoke and unhealthy air quality can amplify people’s chance of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Smoke can damage a person’s respiratory defenses and lower the threshold for infection with a variety of agents, which would include SARS-CoV-2,” he told Yahoo Life.

In addition, Dr. Jonathan Parsons, a pulmonologist at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, also told Yahoo Life that an exposed individual to wildfire smoke is more prone to developing COVID-19 complications.

“Wildfire smoke can lead to significant irritation and inflammation of the respiratory system. If this inflammatory environment is present at baseline, and one contracts COVID-19, the risk of complications is increased significantly,” he said.

According to Casciari, the best thing that people can do to remain healthy is to stay indoors. “Stay inside, if you can.”


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