CA Fires: Smoke Inhalation Remedy Suggestions & Where to Donate

California is on fire.  The reduction in air quality, especially in the city of San Francisco, is extremely unhealthy reaching record levels of small particulate matter in the air.

Animals are at an increased risk for experiencing complications from exposure to smoke from fires. This article, Protecting Your Dog from Wildfire Smoke and Poor Air Quality provides great general information for dogs when exposed to smoke inhalation. I especially liked seeing their suggestions for indoor activities and ideas on what to do to keep your dog from getting bored or going stir-crazy if they must stay indoors. 

This article by the AVMA does a great job with a basic overview of the problems for all domestic animals, and what to do to minimize and mitigate potential problems associated with the current conditions we are experiencing in the area. 

current conditions…
Current Conditions
Air Quality Index (AQI)
observed at 16:00 PST266 Very Unhealthy
Health Message: People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.Note: Values above 500 are considered Beyond the AQI. Follow recommendations for the Hazardous category. Additional information on reducing exposure to extremely high levels of particle pollution is available here.

Smoke inhalation is a serious problem for many people and animals, too.  Unfortunately, the acute exposure to smoke caused by these fires can cause long-term health damage, and in sensitive individuals can have a lasting, sometimes irreversible, effect.  Smoke exposure from fires such as those happening currently in CA has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular issues and stroke, at a minimum.

Below please find my suggestions on how to best manage the immediate symptoms you and your pets may be suffering from now, as well as suggestions for what to do after the smoke clears. 

The truth is, the period after the initial exposure is when EVERYONE, despite having acute reactions or not to the smoke, should implement the use of detoxification protocols and supplemental support that assists the immune system, liver and kidneys to do their job well, so they can effectively work to bring the body back to a healthy state.  Even just a few hours of exposure can cause serious damage and health risks.  Worry not, however, because, given the chance, our bodies are pretty amazing and incredible in their ability to recover and heal, too!

OUR GENERAL SUGGESTIONS FOR STAYING HEALTHY DURING THE CRISIS AND MINIMIZING SERIOUS, LONG-TERM HEALTH RISKS

  1. avoid the smoke as much as possible by staying indoors
  2. remove small particulate matter/dust off the body daily or as needed: bathe daily or wipe with cleansing witch hazel on a damp towel on your dog or cat frequently during the day to remove particulate matter from skin and fur/hair
  3. make use of a high quality HEPA air purification system  we have enjoyed and can personally recommend the quality service of
    The Austin Air Healthmate Plus as well as the Molekule units in our home; but people have even built their own air filters…here’s how.
  4. wear a mask or other form of coverage to filter the air going into your lungs/nose/airways; for dogs there are some interesting options in development to consider including the not yet available, K9 Mask products.
  5. limit hard or heavy exercise
  6. drink plenty of clean, filtered water — more than usual!
  7. eat lighter fare and focus on only buying/eating clean, healthy fresh ingredients.
    • Eating clean, raw healthy food is critically important when exposure to added environmental toxins is high. Some suggestions for humans include meals prepared either raw or gently cooked/steamed using these ingredients: 
      • celery, cucumbers, carrots, winter greens and lettuces, sprouts and microgreens, steamed mushrooms, steamed artichoke, watercress, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, asparagus, daikon radish, chicory, burdock root, ginger, lemon, apple cider vinegar, seaweed, mint, basil, cilantro, parsley, chlorella and spirulina. Those in bold are of particular benefit and are especially powerful, and can be freely offered to your dogs/cats! 
    • Focus on buying, eating and offering your animals strictly truly pasture-raised or wild foraging, heritage breed poultry/meats, dairy and eggs.  The best proteins to feed during exposure to environmental toxins include: rabbit, duck, pork, gently cooked egg white, raw goat or sheep milk, alpaca, and seafood such as crab, whitefish, oysters, and clams.
  8. eat less (caloric restriction or fasting mimicking diets)
  9. consider intermittent fasting for you and your animals to encourage a state of atophagy and help the body detoxify naturally
  10. eat probiotic rich foods and cultured foods to support a healthy microbiome; exposure to smoke will alter the microbiome for each individual in different ways, as will stress. This may cause flares in gastrointestinal diseases such as IBD/IBS, colitis, etc.  So, be sure to add in foods such as kefir, if you and your animal respond well to them.  Some individuals can experience an increase in symptoms (histamine like reactions or behavior changes) when given probiotics or cultured foods. In these cases, we recommend the d-lactate free protiotics from Custom Probiotics, or the AnimalBiome microbiota capsules along with RestorFlora which contains Saccharomyces Boulardii.

HERBS TO THE RESCUE! SUGGESTIONS FOR ACUTE SYMPTOMS AND AFTERCARE
Try incorporating the following herbs & supplements to address different symptoms related to smoke exposure and the various affects on the body.

  • detoxifying foods/herbs to use daily that would help with headaches, fatigue, lethargy, mood changes: Dandelion leaf & root, Burdock Root, Red Clover, nettle, soaked or freshly finely ground Milk Thistle Seeds, Neem, Garlic.
  • general cellular support can be found in unique antioxidants to protect or reverse cellular damage such as fulvic acid found in Shilajit;  SOD found in Marine Phytoplankton, astaxanthin found in Salmon Roe/Ikura, polyphenols in elderberries, ubiquinol (CoEnzyme Q10) and liposomal glutathione. (Yes, we have all of these at SFRAW if you need to pick some up!)
  • lung/chest irritation and congestion can be addressed by using the following herbs – yes, these are all ok to use for your animals!
    • Marshmallow root (Althea) is a cooling, soothing demulcent–relieving inflammation or irritation to lungs, dry tissue, mucous membrane. You can use the dried root, velvety leaves and flowers in infusions and the powdered root in honey pastes/balls to help moisten the lungs and soothe dry tissues. To make a mallow root cold infusion , simply fill a jar 1/4 of the way with dried marshmallow root. Then fill the jar with lukewarm water and cover with a lid. Let sit for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. The water should change color to a soft yellow. Strain off the roots. The resulting liquid should be thick and viscous. Marshmallow can boost the immune system, soothe an inflamed sore throat and moisten the lungs in cases of dry hot conditions, such as hot coughs with little to no expectoration.
    • Lemon Balm (Melissa) Fresh balm is much better than dry, for it loses its fragrance in drying. Drink lemon balm as a tea, use in tincture form, or infused honey, or as a bath tea (place it in a bag or pour the tea into bath; you, and plumbers, won’t appreciate plants clogging drains). Lemon balm is mood boosting, uplifting, calming and nourishing to the nerves (can combine with Oatstraw or milky oats). For headaches, lemon balm tea or a handful in some white wine, helps ease the pain. Other herb nervines (nervous system support) such as skullcap tincture in low doses can relieve headaches. Lemon balm assists energetically in healing from the effects of smoke/smoking, so try rubbing lemon balm infused oil on your chest.
    • Mullein ( Verbascum thapsus) leaves are an excellent tonic for the entire respiratory system. To soothe and relieve hacky or wheezing cough, throat irritation and lung problems try drinking 2-3 cups of mullein leaf infusion daily. As an expectorant, mullein aids the lungs in expelling mucous and phlegm. To strengthen the lungs, or to restore health to lung tissues after “assaults” such as smoke or radiation: Susun Weed suggests “1-2 cups of mullein infusion daily for six weeks. To relieve allergies and asthma, 2-4 cups of mullein infusion every day for 6-8 weeks is helpful”. Mullein leaves are soft but fuzzy, so either use a muslin bag for making your infusions, or strain the liquid through tightly-woven cloth (cheesecloth or even a coffee filter) before drinking. Drink warm or cool according to preference. Some people like to add honey or milk to their infusions. In addition, a compress made from the leaves strained from the infusion, can be applied to swollen throat glands or to the chest to ease congestion. 
  • breathing issues: try using this is a wonderful tea that you can use or give to your animals for breathing issues related to smoke inhalation: 
    Breathe Deeply Tea: 
    1 part Verbascum thapsus (Mullein leaf) 
    1 part Glycyrrhiza spp. (Licorice) 
    1 part Thymus vulgaris (Thyme) 
    1 part Mentha piperita (Peppermint) 
    1 part Urtica dioica (Nettles) 
    Take ¼ ounce combined herbs by weight and put loosely in a canning jar, teapot or coffee press. Add 1 cup of boiling water and let steep ½-2 hours. Strain well. Drink 1-3 cups a day; for dogs and cats — add a 1/2 tsp for every 10-lbs of body weight up to each meal, bone broth or raw goat milk 1-3 times/day. 
  • eye irritation: the following herbs are extremely helpful — combine equal amounts of eyebright, goldenseal or goldenrod, along with the supportive herbs of red raspberry leaf or nettles. Place the herbs into a cup or ceramic bowl, pour boiling water over them and allow to steep, covered until cool. After steeping, strain very carefully to remove all particles in the tea infusion. Use alone or combine with a filtered warm salt water (add a bit of salt to the water) as an eye rinse. Store in the refrigerator and use a clean cotton ball or spoon each time to not contaminate the liquid or make a fresh batch each time.  Use 2-3 x daily, as needed.
  • immune system support and to clear congestion: simply take either a few raw garlic cloves (whole), chopped fresh ginger or turmeric root, a bit of cayenne or horseradish, and add lemon sliced or juice, then pour local organic honey over all. Let it sit a few days out of direct sun, in a glass or ceramic jar or bowl, allowing it to meld together. Take by the teaspoon, or add to a hot tea or bone broth to tolerance and your preference. This should last 3-4 days or longer in the fridge. 

Long-time SFRAW members, and owners of the very excellent, highly recommended human natural medicine practice located on Potrero Hill, Dr. Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc and Michele Hangee-Bauer have a nice article posted on their blog with some good suggestions: What To Do About Wildfire Smoke Inhalation .


Local herb and apothecary shop, Scarlet Sage wrote a nice blog post with herbal recommendations, too. 

POWERFUL REMEDIES: USING HOMEOPATHY FOR ACUTE SYMPTOMS This blog post has some excellent suggestions for the use of homeopathic remedies in managing symptoms. Below please find a list of possible homeopathic remedies to consider for managing symptoms during the acute disaster (not for use long-term). Choose the one, single remedy that you or your animal needs for the first symptoms  expressed/experienced from the smoke OR their current, most bothersome issue. Do not mix or combine remedies. Do not try one after the other when you are unsure if the first one had the desired effect; this is a very unsafe use of the remedies.  

Ignatia: When there is smoke exposure with depression, grief or disappointments. Has a headache that feels as if a nail was being driven into the side of the head. The pain feels better by lying on the painful side. Any strong smells make things worse. May crave cigarettes to make things better.

Arsenicum: Smoke exposure with extreme anxiety and restlessness. The eyes are burning and tearing. Nose has a burning discharge. Cough is dry. The symptoms are worse at night and when lying down. There is a lot of worry, restlessness and anxiety about the future. Concerns about financial losses or theft.

Euphrasia: Smoke exposure with only physical symptoms. Simply notes that the eyes run and burn and the nose runs but there is no burning or pain. Eyelids can be red, swollen and sensitive. There can be a slight cough with tearing eyes.

Kali bichromicum: When there is a more serious smoke exposure with irritated sinus, lungs. The nose is blocked and any discharge is ropy or stringy and tends to be sticky. Sinuses are sore, raw and painful. Painful coughs with a sore chest. 

Natrum arsenicosum: For very sensitive persons. Can be useful if other indicated remedies have not helped. Eyes are dry and painful. Sinuses are blocked and painful.
Racking cough, lungs feel full of smoke. Headaches.

Bryonia: Worse with any motion with dryness of respiratory system. Headache is worse with motion, better with pressure. Dry and painful coughs. Symptoms are worse at night or with motion. Cranky, wants to be quiet, still and left alone.

Silica: Useful for detoxing and expelling foreign particles. Nose is dry and blocked, no smell or taste. Sinuses are blocked and painful. Dry cough with irritation. Sensation of something stuck at the back of the throat.

Carbo Vegetabilis: Shortness of breath, oxygen starved. Wants to be fanned, or craves fresh air. Feels very weak and may collapse. Severe wheezing. Loss of consciousness or fainting.

My suggestions for the dosing and use of homeopathy can be found here. I suggest following my recommendations for administering, handling and dosing.  I recommend remedies at the 30C potency for First Aid and acute care, and giving just one time only. Yep — just once! After a single dose of a single remedy, you may carefully consider additional doses, but only if needed after giving the remedy time to work (usually improvement is seen either immediately or within 12-24 hours). Please do not give remedies as is commonly suggested (for example, 3x/day) or endlessly, like a supplement –
this could be very dangerous in many cases to do. Homeopathic remedies are medicine, they are NOT supplements or superfoods. These powerful medicines are more effective when you use the very smallest dose possible.

I hope this helps you and your animals to get through this crisis without too much physical damage. Unfortunately, I think Californians need to be prepared for even more of these types of natural disasters to occur on an ever increasing, frequent and regular basis. It is a good idea to get prepared, so you can get through a little easier next time. Stay safe and please do your best to take good care.  

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Pets In Need is doing a DONATION DRIVE for animals impacted by the CA fires! Here’s the need list and how to donate this week (please get donations down to Pets In Need before this coming Monday, when they will be delivered by rescue volunteers)! Thank you, Cole Cross ❤ Pets In Need

If you’d like to donate any of the items you see here, you can drop them off at PETS IN NEED (not SFRAW!) Pets In Need are open on weekdays 12:00-5:00 pm and on weekends from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Please drop off supplies by Sunday, 11/18 as we will deliver them to the Chico area on Monday, 11/19.

In your area, you can usually donate supplies for many places in Northern CA and the SF Bay Area, including the local rescue organizations and many well-organized SPCAs. 

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