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Pro Tips for Fire Season

We’ve been here before. And being suddenly surrounded by smoky air is a very stressful experience. Here’s some reminders on how to support yourself and others.

Take Care of Yourself

🔥Buy and wear a mask, like the one pictured here with a rating of N95. These can be found at a hardware store or online. Students can often pick up masks at wellness centers. Wear the mask whenever you go outside.

💙Unlike COVID masking, a mask to prevent smoke has to go around your head and create a seal to your face to prevent smoky air from entering your mouth and nose. Your t-shirt/bandana isn’t fine enough to sort out the tiny particles. A cloth mask with a filter can work in a pinch, and any mask is better than no mask.

💙Drink water. We want to stay extra hydrated during this week. Ice water can be nice since it’s cold and can cool you down. Smoke is drying and irritating and water will help soothe both of these discomforts. The smoke can easily give you a headache, water and electrolytes can help.

🔥DIY Electrolytes; water with a pinch of salt, squeeze of lemon and a half spoonful of honey.

💙Feeling aggravated? If you are at home, consider a shower to re-set, cool down and start fresh. Also think: neti-pot or a facial steam. To prepare a facial steam: pour boiling water into a heal-safe bowl. Cover your head and the bowl with a towel or large cloth. Breathe in and out deeply for 10 - 20 mins.

💙The smoke affects our mucous membranes, so your mouth, nose, lungs and also eyes will get dried out and irritated. Keep drinking water.

Take Your Herbs

💙Brew and drink tea with herbs to support the lungs.

  • Mullein A supreme lung tonic. Be sure to strain with a fine filter as the tiny hairs can aggravate the throat if not strained properly. Very little flavor.

  • Thyme Yes, like the kind in your spice cabinet. Brew as a tea to support lung health. Gently warming.

  • Nettles Great antihistamine if your allergies flare up. Also can give you a boost of usable green energy to keep going through the tough times.

  • Marshmallow Brew as a cold infusion (use cold water) if you are feeling dry and scratchy. Let sit one to 8 hours. Taste is a bit weird. Combine w juice or add mint to flavor.

  • Mint A cooling herb. Include in a tea blend for flavor or solo for a refreshing hot or cold tea.

  • Eucalyptus This common California tree makes a lovely addition to the steams mentioned above. Use a handful of fresh leaves or 1-3 drops of essential oil.

These herbs can be used in any combination or solo. All herbs listed above are safe for most people. If you have questions about herbs, please consult an herbalist.

Take Care of Your Spirit

🔥Fire and smoke are aggravating to the body and spirit. It's easy to feel agitated, angry and frustrated when there is tiny particulate all around and in you! All body systems are being affected, and essentially running less efficiently so you feel taxed.

🔥Smoky skies are the new normal when we are living through climate crisis and global heating. It’s important to recognize that emotionally, this is a hard time. Living through the time of climate change is extremely stressful. Its ok to be sad and angry about that. Recognizing that stress is an important first step in taking action where you can.

💙Fall is a time of transition and the season of grief, which according to many traditional cultures, including TCM, lives in the lungs. Due to the seasonal indication, we are already being asked to work on this part of the body and difficult emotions, including loss and grief are easily just below the surface.

💙Fire has had devastating effects in the past five years in California, and has affected much of North America already this summer. The seasonal patters can bring up fear of recurring loss.

💙Smokey skies means it’s harder to take a deep breath. It’s hard to get comfortable, it’s harder to allow our bodies to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system state. This means we are easily and constantly in a fight, flight or freeze reaction. Watch how you talk to your loved ones.

Take Action

🔥 Buy an air filter. This is the one I have (I have no affiliation to this link or company). Also, close all windows and doors to prevent smoky air from entering your space.

🔥 DO NOT go running or ride a bike and avoid, if possible, any work outside to avoid having the particulate go deeper into your lungs.

💙 Vulnerable populations are even more at-risk, think: elders, children, anyone with a compromised respiratory system.

🧡Orange air means vulnerable populations need to avoid outdoor activities. (100 - 150 AQI)

❤️Red air means everyone needs to avoid outdoor activities. (150 - 200 AQI)

💜Purple air is hazardous and means only go outside for an emergency. (200 + AQI)

💙To meet your needs of movement, consider indoor activities like yoga, stretching or take a less intensive walk near your home, wearing a mask.

💙Track air quality via the EPA’s AirNow website or app.

💙I recommend that you take some time to act on one or more of these recommendations, for yourself or your loved ones, for your community or a community you are in alliance with. It’s easy to want to power through the day. You will wear yourself out and we need you to be in good shape for the even harder stuff.

More Resources

💙 The Herbal Highway did a two part series on taking care in wildfire season in 2021. Part One is on Prevention with Sarah Holmes of The Blue Otter School. Part Two is about Acute Care with Renée Camila of Now and Then Herb School.

💙 The Community Medicine Chest has a very useful Fire Preparedness Checklist that you can print or download to have on-hand should you need to evacuate due to a fire or other natural disaster or emergency. Madalyn also periodically teaches on Herbs for Fire Season.

❤️ Did you enjoy this article and want to learn more? Are you curious about how local herbalism can support you leading a more embodied and authentic life? Consider joining my newsletter.


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