When it comes to a woman's makeup, a smoky eye can be very attractive. But with the unusually bad wildfire season that we've had this year, we're seeing a lot of smoky eyes that aren't doing anything for anyone's look!
The problem isn't just here in California. "There's smoke from Canada, smoke from Idaho, smoke from California and Montana There's smoke everywhere," Greg Svelund, a spokesman for Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, told NPR in September, when reporter Jane Greenhalgh reported that, "A quick look at the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Now website shows unhealthy or hazardous air conditions all over the Pacific Northwest and into Northern California, Idaho and Montana."
Conditions were still bad in October, when the Verge.com also reported on the harm smoke could to do people who aren't directly threatened by the wildfires themselves. "California is besieged by 22 wildfires that have incinerated more than 265 square miles and killed at least 21 people. Smoke and ash blanket the Bay Area in a layer of haze responsible for the worst air quality on record," Rachel Becker wrote on the website's report. "The smoke has prompted local schools to close, and reduced visibility at Bay Area airports so much that flights were delayed, or canceled."
The main health concerns associated with the smoke this year's abundance of wildfires is producing are related to our lungs and hearts. "For people who have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or heart conditions, just breathing this noxious air can be dangerous," Becker reported.
"If there's smoke in the atmosphere, it affects the whole body," Sarah Henderson, professor of public health at the University of British Columbia, told Verge.com. "The basic message is that forest fire smoke is not good for you."
Environmental irritants like smog, dust, mold, pollen, pet dander and, of course, smoke, can also irritate your eyes, though. "If you are allergic to any of these substances, they are even more likely to make your eyes burn," the website AllAboutVision.com reports.
To get relief from burning irritated eyes, AllAboutVision.com – a website established in 2000 to provide consumers with an unbiased source of trustworthy information on eyehealth and vision correction options – has some recommendations:
"If you are an allergy sufferer," they say, "your doctor may prescribe specific eye drops that can minimize the burning you might usually experience during allergy season These drops differ from oral allergy medicines, which can sometimes cause eyes to burn by drying them out.
"If a household product gets in your eyes and causes burning, the first thing you should do is check the product label for specific instructions. In many cases, you will be able to safely rinse your eyes to alleviate the burning sensation.
"Cool compresses gently applied over your closed eyelids also can help soothe burning eyes."
Experts agree that the best way to avoid the risks that come with the smoke is to remain indoors.
"Close all windows and doors unless it's really hot," Dr. Gopal Allada, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, told NPR. "And use the recirculate button in your car or on your air conditioner, so you are not bringing in new particulate matter."
Dr. Ann Thomas, a preventive medicine specialist with the Oregon Health Authority, which has published a pamphlet on the health effects of wildfire smoke, told NPR that those without air conditioning might want to consider spending time in a library, mall, or community center that does.
Thomas also told NPR that the standard dust mask available at the drugstore won't offer much protection. "It may keep out the large pieces of ash, but it also may cause you to inhale more deeply, and it won't filter out the microscopic particles that can get into your lungs," Greenhalgh explained. "An N95 mask can filter out 95 percent of smoke particles, but only if it's fitted properly and dirty air doesn't leak around the sides."
The good news is that symptoms caused by the smoke should go away when the air clears. If you continue to suffer from burning eyes, it might be a sign of a more serious condition. Don't take chances with your precious eyes! Optometrists in Northridge and throughout the western regions impacted by wildfires and smoke have seen an uptick in calls and in cases of patients complaining of dry, irritated eyes.
Dr. Kathy Chriqui, one of those optometrists in Northridge, CA, has been able to draw on her training and experience to offer relief to patients. If you have questions or concerns, the staff at Northridge eye clinic Optometrics of Chatsworth says don't hesitate to call.