top of page

How to Keep Breathing when The World is on Fire

It's pretty bleak out there friends.

The world is literally on fire. The atmosphere is heavy and ominous.

We must keep moving forward.

We also need to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Even once the haze eventually lifts, which it definitley will, your body will need support moving forward to eliminate all the particles that have been inhaled.

And also, this will not be the last time. Let's arm ourselves with tools and information.

Wildfire smoke is a cocktail of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, microplastics, ozone, particulates and other toxic compounds humans and animal should not be inhaling. For children especially there is a direct link between air pollution and the mental health of our children. In the days following poor air quality children report much higher levels of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations. This is serious stuff.

Potential symptoms of wildfire smoke inhalation:

  • shortness of breath

  • wheezing

  • coughing

  • phlegm buildup

  • asthma attacks

  • chest pain

  • increased heart rate

  • headaches

  • exacerbated allergy symptoms

  • runny nose

  • sore throat

  • skin irritations

  • eye irritations

  • fatigue

  • depression

  • reduced immune function

  • reduced lung function

  • aggravation of any preexisting respiratory and cardiovascular disease

  • all kinds of things we just don't want, need, have time for, deserve

Also, I'd be remiss not to highlight why this is happening. It's not a fluke. It's Climate Change. It's not a theory. It is our current lived reality and it's only getting worse. Rising temperatures, decreased precipitation - our ecosystem just can't handle it. VOTE IN ELECTED OFFICIALS WHO TAKE CLIMATE CHANGE SERIOUSLY and are committed to meaningful change, renewable energy and regenerative farming to stabilize the atrocities we have committed to this planet.

And now, some ideas to implement right away.....

1. Hydrate. Think of it as flushing and diluting all the nasty particulates out of your lungs and blood stream.

  • Water is always the Queen of the fluids, add lemon if you can to really up the free radical scavenging.

  • Electrolytes also have their place - commercially made or straight up bone broth and/or coconut water

  • Herbal teas are another great choice, especially ones that are also cleansing and support your body's innate detoxification - I'm talking Nettle, Dandelion, Burdock

  • Demulcent herbs - Slippery Elm, Marshmallow Root, Mullein - excellent for increasing the integrity of those mucous membranes while moistening and relaxing your lungs and esophagus

  • Don't forget your plant friends - water them! Plants are what will help save our planet, don't neglect

2. Rinse. Target your mucous membranes directly by making them slippery and resistant to adherence. They are your first line of defense and the area that gets the most exposure to smoke.

  • Neti Pot nasal rinses - releases trapped pollutants in your sinuses, moistens your tissues

  • Saline Nasal Spray - flushes those particles out for immediate relief from sneezing and congestion

  • Steam inhalation with Thyme essential oil - easiest is to sprinkle on the floor of your shower. Diffusing works as well. Antimicrobial plant magic.

3. Food as Medicine. It's all about harnessing the natural detoxification and antioxidant power of your food

  • Ginger - natural detoxifier, anti-nausea, improves circulation. Use in food, tea or as a supplement

  • Vitamin C - natural antioxidant. Fruit is an excellent source, especially when in season. Supplementation can also be very effective

  • Broccoli & Broccoli Sprouts - this plant has robust evidence to support it's ability to reduce allergic response to particulate pollutants in the air. Enjoy often.

  • Fermented Foods - key. If you're local try this incredible resource for all things fermented.

4. Supplement

  • NAC - a precursor to Glutathione - the body's master antioxidant - crucial for detoxification and respiratory health. Liposomal is a liquid suspension extremely effective for kids as well. This one comes in a tasty strawberry flavour.

  • Vitamin C - aforementioned antioxidant capabilities. Protects vessels from particulate matter exposure. Essential.

  • CoQ10 - free radical neutralizer able to rebuild the damage caused by environmental pollutants. Our natural production decreases as we age.

  • Respiractin - an herbal tonic safe for children and adults that relieves coughs, soothes airways and provides clearer breathing.

5. Acupuncture - if your lungs, sinuses or head are aching and you are having trouble bouncing back, get some acupuncture for hands on support in moving stagnation through your body and opening up your channels for smoother flow of air, blood, energy, life force.

6. Castor Oil rubbed over liver and lungs - front and back - helps bring circulation to the area, supports your body's natural detoxification abilities - get those particles out!

7. Greens -

  • Chlorella and Spirulina are nutrient dense algae that bind to toxins in the body and evict them effectively. They are so rich in powerful chlorophyll they can cause unpleasant detox symptoms if you take too much at once without regulating to it first. Start low and go slow.

  • Cilantro and Parsley can be helpful food additions as well.

  • A high quality Greens powder makes access particularly easy

You can find many of these supplements on Fullscript. Links above or here

As always, this is not a replacement for individual care or personal medical advice. Please see your own practitioner for personalized advice.


Dr Dori Skye Engel,
Naturopathic Doctor & Doula

bottom of page