Worried about the wildfire smoke? Here’s what you can do at home

Natural landscape with wildflowers next to the lake

There are 400+ wildfires burning in Canada and currently a third of them are in the eastern province of Quebec. If you live in North America (especially on the eastern side) you have experienced the smoke and haze too. It was so bad this week that school kids were instructed to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activities around the country.

(This article was written as a follow-up to the Maple + Marigold newsletter, June 10, 2023 edition. Sign up for your copy.)

Here are some personal health tips and advice to navigate this wildfire ‘season’ and how we can maintain our well-being when the air quality is as bad as it has been recently.

Most of these are learnings from my experience living in Chandigarh and New Delhi, India where the air quality is poor every few months.

  • Keep doors and windows closed when the outside air quality is poor
  • Limit time outdoors when you can
  • Bring in plants to help boost the air quality and circulation where you are
  • Invest in a long-lasting air purifier with reusable filters
  • Boil orange peels and cinnamon/ star anise to add a pleasant fragrance indoors. Avoid candles or scented diffusers; most do not improve air quality, instead add chemicals and actively worsen the air.

When the forecast is clear:

  • Open doors and windows to allow the air indoors to circulate. Close as air quality worsens. Go for a walk if possible
  • Gargle with hot salty water to ease the itchiness in the throat
  • Blow your nose often to get rid of the soot that may have collected in the nostrils.
  • If your skin feels dry, shower and moisturize well. Coconut oil is a great option for this.

Other tips:

  • Eat probiotic-rich (fermented foods) and prebiotic (fibre) rich foods together to help the body’s systems process efficiently.
  • Steep a 1-in piece of cinnamon, lightly crushed, in kettle-hot water and sip through the day

Beyond personal health, there is so much more that can be done. Please see here for tips to implement change at a community/ government level.

Questions + Comments

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Arlene B
8 months ago

Thank you so much for this Puneeta. Well said. I am extremely sensitive to perfumes and there are aisles in the grocery store that I can’t even walk down. My sister always has diffusers and glade candles etc. going and I can barely breathe when I visit her. I can’t seem to get through to her that she is polluting the air in her own house. I too prefer to make my own simmer pot with citrus peels and whole spices. It’s safer for us and our pets. I hope people start hearing your messages soon.

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Puneeta
8 months ago
Reply to  Arlene B

Oh that’s hard! And I totally get the aisles in grocery stores, my least favourite is the cleaning section, it is just so ‘smelly’ For those of us who grew up around candles and incense, it’s somehow difficult to transition away. I’m looking forward to the roses in my backyard; they don’t look great in a vase, the shrubs are old, the petals smell incredible though. I usually bring them in to simmer on the stove. Thanks for sharing, Arlene!

About Puneeta

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Puneeta is a writer, food advocate and guide for those who seek earth-friendly, delicious solutions that work for real life.

Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma, Food Writer, Climate Advocate, New cookbook - Good Food, Healthy Planet - out April 2024
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