How to Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke

Erica Zellner, MS, CNS, LDN
Health Coach
June 6, 2023

As wildfire smoke from Canada drifts across the Eastern seaboard, experts are recommending that people stay indoors and mask up when going outside.

The increasing prevalence of these fires on both coasts, and beyond, means we need to know how to protect ourselves beyond limiting exposure.

What is the biggest danger of wildfire smoke?

One of the biggest dangers with wildfire smoke exposure is the inhalation of particulate matter (PM). These are noxious, tiny particles that measure less than 2.5 microns (or 1/5 the size of pollen!). Exposure to this particulate matter may impair the immune system by altering the function of T-cells, an important component of our immune system.

Common symptoms of smoke exposure include:

  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Chest pain
  • Burning or watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Increased heart rate (>100 bpm)
  • Difficulty breathing normally

What to do if you’re exposed

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, and are in a high-risk group (age over 65, young child, history of breathing disorders like asthma, or compromised immune system), please head to the nearest emergency room or urgent care facility for further evaluation. If you are not in a high-risk group and have been exposed, the following are steps you can take to help your body manage the exposure:

  • Wear a N95 or KN95 respirator mask when outside for more than 10 minutes. If you have underlying lung/immune conditions like asthma or allergies, wear at all times when outside. These can easily be found at CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, etc.
  • Drink at least 90 oz. of filtered water daily. You can also include tea in this total! Matcha will provide additional antioxidants, marshmallow root is great for a scratchy throat, and peppermint tea provides support for your respiratory system.
  • Increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidant foods: ginger, turmeric, garlic, dark leafy greens, green tea, fatty fish, cranberries, wild blueberries, elderberry, and pecans.
  • Add liver-supportive foods to increase your detox capacity:
    • Broccoli sprouts: a small handful in smoothies and another handful in meals during the day
    • Lemon zest: zest a lemon into your smoothie or on food
    • Fresh herbs: parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, nettles
    • Bitter greens to stimulate bile (your body’s natural binder!): endive, dandelion greens, frisee, mustard greens, turnip greens, nettles
    • Cruciferous vegetables: kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
    • Beet juice: Drink with a meal so there isn't a huge glucose surge.
    • Chlorophyll-rich foods: spirulina, chlorella, and green juices
  • Take Epsom salt baths at night. The magnesium will help to calm your nerves and assist in detoxing environmental toxins. You can also spend time in a sauna or infrared sauna to increase your detoxification.
  • Use a neti pot or saline rinse. This will reduce congestion and improve symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and dry nasal passages.

Are there supplements I should take?

Talk to your doctor or health coach about adding targeted supplements to support detoxification:

  • Pure Encapsulations NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine), 900mg 2-3/ daily. Also available OTC.
  • Quicksilver Scientific Liposomal Glutathione, 200mg twice daily
  • Activated charcoal to help bind toxins, 1-2 capsules twice daily, at least 30 minutes before a meal. This can be found OTC at Whole Foods, CVS, etc. Alternatively, you can use Quicksilver Ultrabinder, 1tsp twice daily, mixed in 8 oz. of water.
  • Integrative Therapeutics Theracurmin HP, 2 capsules daily
  • Nordic Naturals ProOmega CRP 3 Soft Gels daily (contains 300mg NAC and 225 mg reduced l-glutathione)
  • Quicksilver Scientific Push Catch LIver Detox for post-exposure (optional)

Want to become a Parsley Health member? Schedule a free call to learn more about Parsley’s virtual primary care , how to use insurance to pay for your Parsley medical fees, and more.

Erica Zellner, MS, CNS, LDN
Health Coach

Erica Zellner (she/her) is a Connecticut based Clinical Nutritionist and Senior Health Coach with six years of functional nutrition and health experience.  She works with everyone, on issues from biohacking optimizers to tackling complex environmental toxicities like mold. She earned her Master’s degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She also holds her Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) and Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist (LDN) credentials.

In addition, Parsley Health partners with Violet, a cultural competency platform that's expanding Parsley's training so our clinicians and health coaches can continue to deliver exceptional inclusive care. We're proud to share that Erica has received Violet's BIPOC and LGBQ Proficiency Benchmark, showing dedication to the BIPOC and LGBQ community and growing in her inclusive skills. Less than 10% of the providers who’ve been benchmarked on Violet have reached the Proficiency level.

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