The elderly are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people. If you are healthy, you’re usually not at a major risk from smoke. Still, it’s a good idea to avoid breathing smoke if you can help it.
If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or emphysema, you may experience health effects earlier and at lower smoke levels than healthy people.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, “For anyone in Colorado: IF VISIBILITY IS LESS THAN 5 MILES IN SMOKE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD, SMOKE HAS REACHED LEVELS THAT ARE UNHEALTHY. If smoke is thick or becomes thick in your neighborhood you may want to remain indoors. This is especially true for those with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young, and the elderly. Consider limiting outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present. Consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors and is making you ill.”
How to tell if the smoke may be affecting you:
Smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing a scratchy throat, coughing, irritated sinuses, headaches, stinging eyes or a runny nose. If you have heart or lung disease, smoke may worsen your symptoms.
People with heart disease may experience chest pain, palpitations, fatigue or shortness of breath. Those with lung disease may be unable to breathe as deeply or as vigorously as usual, and they may experience symptoms such as coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath. When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience some of these symptoms.
Smoke is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles produced when wood and other organic matter burn. The biggest health threat from smoke comes from fine particles. These microscopic particles can enter your eyes and respiratory system, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis. Fine particles also can aggravate chronic heart and lung diseases – and even are linked to premature deaths in people with these conditions.