Smoke Pollution and Your Lung Health

Smoke, like the kind that comes from campfires, wood burning stoves and wildfires is a source of pollutants that can create a major burden on our lungs. Even the healthiest of individuals are impacted by smoke in the air, but there are specific groups that are at higher risk for complications.

Children take more breaths per minute than an adult. Their lungs are still developing and susceptible to air pollutants, especially because they take in more air than an adult per pound.

Individuals with preexisting lung and heart disease already experience a great deal of difficulty with these systems in the absence of air pollutants. When there is an increase of smoke in the air people with conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and angina have a more difficult time adapting.

Older adults can be affected more from smoke in the air than younger adults because they are more likely to suffer from lung and heart issues.

Signs That Smoke is Affecting You:

  • Sore throat or sinuses
  • Runny nose
  • Cough, with or without phlegm
  • Headache
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • If you have a preexisting condition, worsening of symptoms
    Remember to avoid sitting or standing directly in the path of smoke.

    Remember to avoid sitting or standing directly in the path of smoke.

If you experience any symptoms that are concerning be sure to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms arise. 

How to Protect Yourself from Smoke:

  • Avoid going outside or engaging in physical activity when smoke levels are high. 
  • Avoid sitting or standing directly in the path of smoke. While a campfire may smell good, it is never a good idea to inhale smoke directly.
  • Keep windows and doors closed while inside, unless it is very hot inside.
  • Use an air conditioner (if you have one) with a clean filter and keep fresh air intake closed.
  • Open the vent on wood burning stoves before attempting to add wood.
  • Avoid vacuuming, which can increase the number of particles in the air.

Soothing Your Respiratory Tract:

The following at home therapies are not a replacement for a medical professional’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider before initiating a new therapy.

Lavender & Chamomile Chest Rub:
Relaxes and soothes respiratory system.

8 drops Lavender essential oil
2 drops Chamomile essential oil
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine olive oil & essential oil. Rub onto chest nightly.

Steam Inhalation:
You can do a simple steam inhalation by running the shower water on hot while you sit in the bathroom with the door closed. The warm steam is soothing to the respiratory tract. Alternatively, you can do a steam inhalation with herbs.

What you’ll need:

A bowl
Kettle or pot to boil water
Herbs- You can use fresh mint or 2-3 drops of an essential oil (peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme).

Place hot water into a bowl and add essential oil. Sit in the chair with the bowl beneath you or on a table. Holding umbrella, place sheet over you to make a tent, keeping steam within.

Caution: If you are doing this with children, it is important that the bowl be out of their reach and that they are not placed directly in the steam to avoid burns. 


Naturopathic Pediatric Essentials by Susan M. Roberts, ND

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten is a licensed Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor, best selling author, speaker, and mother. Dr. Brighten specializes in women’s health, from fertility to postpartum care, adrenal and thyroid support, autoimmune conditions, and digestive disorders. In her patient centered practice, Dr. Brighten thrives on navigating the space between conventional and alternative medicine, all while working with patients to help them achieve optimum balance, health, and happiness.