5 Tips for Coping with Smoky Air
With another record-breaking forest fire season this year, we're dealing with a lot of smoky, hazy days. While this directly impacts those of us with asthma, allergies, and migraines, it also exacerbates other inflammatory conditions like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, mood disorders and more. Whether you suffer from these conditions or are simply wondering how to exercise safely and keep your body healthy, here are 5 Tips to help you get through.
1. Know your air quality. Here in Colorado Springs, we know that if we can't see the mountains, there's a lot of smoke in the air. However, it can be hard to judge air quality simply by visibility. If you notice any reduction in visibility or smell smoke in the air, it's time to look up air quality numbers. This info can be found on most weather sites and apps, along with guidelines for modifying activities.
Our favorite site is airnow.gov. Air Now shows current air quality conditions, an air quality forecast based on your zip code and provides excellent regional smoke maps. Make sure to check air quality data before you make plans for exercising or spending time outdoors.
2. Know your body. Do you have a medical condition that puts you at higher risk for impact from smoke? If you feel compromised, you may need to avoid outdoor activities. Ask yourself, "how has smoke affected me in the past?" and "am I noticing any changes in my health since the air got smoky?"
Track even small changes in your symptoms and be proactive. You may need to increase supplements or medications levels (consult your doctor.) If you feel more tired than usual, check your oxygen levels (or ask us to at your next appointment.) Don't delay in giving your body the extra support it needs.
3. Improve air quality at home. Using air purifiers at home can make a tremendous difference and will give your body a chance to recover while you are indoors. Consider sleeping with windows closed and air purifiers on. Check the filters on any air conditioning unit, furnace blower or air purifier more frequently. When the weather is particularly hot and dry, running a humidifier can be super helpful too. The moisture helps sooth dry eyes, scratchy throats and irritated airways.
There are a lot of great air purifiers out there. At the clinic we use Rabbit Air and Honeywell purifiers. The key is to look for the right size unit for your space with a pre-filter and HEPA filter. Then make sure to follow the guidelines for cleaning and replacing those filters.
4. Stay hydrated. To counteract the heat and dryness of fire season, increase your water intake and hydration. Squeeze some fresh lime into cool water or try coconut water for variety. Add cooling, hydrating foods to your diet like cucumber and watermelon. If you are exercising outside, make sure to add powdered electrolytes to your water (look for electrolytes with low sugar/low carb content at you local health food store.) A little extra hydration can go a long way to support your body's resilience.
5. Promote detoxing. Smoky skies create a big toxin load for the body. You may experience low energy, sluggishness, body aches or changes in mood or sleep when the skies are smoky. This is a key time to support your body's natural detoxing mechanisms. Incorporate activities to move your lymph like dry brushing, bouncing on a trampoline, or using an inversion table. Showers with alternating hot and cold water are a good flush for the body, as well as saunas or steam rooms.
Up your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables to increase anti-oxidant levels and help your body combat the effects of extra toxins. Juicing can be a great option this time of year. Carrot, beet, kale, lime and ginger is a favorite combination to support the liver and boost anti-oxidants.
Without taking too deep a dive into all the detoxing options out there, we'll wrap it up. We hope these 5 Tips will help you thrive during fire season this year.
- Hannah Beachy, L.Ac.