Firefighters put their lives at risk every time they rush to answer an emergency call. What most people don't know is that smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death from a fire, not burns or injuries from the fire itself. Smoke is composed of extremely small but highly irritating particles that can damage the lungs and sinuses, even when inhaled in small amounts.
Firefighters take precautions to limit their exposure to smoke, wearing professional-grade smoke masks and breathing apparatus at the scene of a fire. They know that repeated smoke inhalation can lead to a host of health problems, including chronic sinus swelling and blockage. But even with all those precautions in place, firefighters are still exposed to irritants any time they fight a fire.
Smoke from a fire can be a problem for folks who don't fight them for a living, too. If you're exposed to smoke from a nearby forest or building fire, remember that conventional paper dust masks aren't designed to filter out fine smoke particles. You're better off staying indoors as much as possible until the smoke clears [source: EPA].
Sinus Congestion Tips
Here is some information to help you with sinus congestion.
- American Cancer Society. "Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses Cancer." (July 19, 2016) http://www.cancer.org/cancer/nasalcavityandparanasalsinuscancer/detailedguide/nasal-cavity-and-paranasal-sinuses-cancer-risk-factors
- American Family Physician. "Sinus Infections." Nov. 1, 2004 (July 19, 2016) http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/1101/p1711.html
- Campbell, Walter. "How the Aircraft Cabin Environment Affects You." Health for Flight Crews (July 19, 2016) http://www.healthforflightcrews.com/cabin.html
- EPA Office of Air and Radiation. "How Smoke from Fires Can Affect Your Health." May 2003 (July 19, 2016) https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=smoke.index
- Gardner, Amanda. "Sinus trouble? Secondhand smoke may be to blame." Health.com. April 19, 2010 (July 19, 2016) http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/19/secondhand.smoke.sinus/
- Larson, George C. "How Things Work: Cabin Pressure." Air & Space. Jan. 2002 (July 19, 2016) http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/how-things-work-cabin-pressure-2870604/?no-ist
- McNeely, Eileen et al. "The Self-reported Health of U.S. Flight Attendants Compared to the General Population." Environmental Health. 2014. (7/25/2016). https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-069X-13-13
- Nelson, Jennifer. "What Causes Sinus Problems?" WebMD (July 19, 2016) http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/causes-sinus-problems
- UPMC Healthbeat. "Don't Let Barotrauma be a Pain this Summer." July 15, 2014 (July 19, 2016) http://share.upmc.com/2014/07/dont-let-barotrauma-pain-summer/
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