Symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure to watch out for

You can see it, you can feel it, you can maybe even taste it. Smoke from the wildfires in Oregon and California is blanketing the Puget Sound area.

Doctors say it’s best to stay inside and avoid it altogether, but acknowledge that that’s not possible for everyone.

The best protection is an N95 mask, but those are being saved for medical professionals and first responders during the pandemic.

Some doctors have had an uptick in calls from patients who are concerned.

Dr. Albert Merati, Medical Director of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery Center at UW Medical Center, said the smoke could give you an ear infection, besides your eyes and throat.

“People might have hoarseness, they might have a dry or itchy throat, or pain in the throat, but more commonly we’re hearing about nasal congestion, and we expect to see an increase in the incidence of ear infections,” Merati said.

He said people should pay attention to what they’re drinking if they are feeling smoke effects.

“While most of us enjoy having a carbonated beverage, an alcoholic beverage, or a cup of coffee, those things are fine in moderation. And some of us who are a little more susceptible. If you feel like your throat is getting irritated during this time, maybe a little more water. Maybe avoid the irritants for a couple of days,” Merati said.

The smoke is sticking around for more of this week.

“Even after the smoke comes and goes, I wonder if there will be people who find they have persistent symptoms that it wasn’t the lingering effect of the smoke, but rather, this experience unearthed a problem that was already brewing,” Merati said. “So, if you do have things that aren’t quite right even when the air is clear — nasal congestion, pain, difficulty breathing, sore throat I think it’s a good time to connect with your primary care physician or ear nose throat doctor.”