Silhouette of a tree on a hill surrounded by flames, fire

Bad Air Quality, Wildfires, and Flare-Ups

Living with a chronic condition like AxSpa can be challenging on its own, but when external factors exacerbate the symptoms, the struggle intensifies. Keegan, my husband, has been battling AxSpa for over a decade, and the recent wildfires in Canada have triggered one of the worst flare-ups he has experienced in the past five years.

Is there a link?

While it may seem unlikely that wildfires could impact an individual's health, recent studies suggest a possible connection between air pollution caused by these natural disasters and the exacerbation of chronic conditions such as AxSpa. The dense smoke generated by wildfires contains various air pollutants, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and volatile organic compounds.1 These pollutants can trigger inflammation in the body, potentially causing flare-ups and increasing severity of symptoms.1

Research conducted during recent wildfire events has shed light on the harmful effects of wildfire smoke on respiratory and inflammatory conditions. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to an increase in emergency department visits due to respiratory and cardiovascular issues. Furthermore, the study found that individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions experienced worsened symptoms during wildfire events.2

Keegan's current flare-up lines with the wildfires that blazing in parts of Canada. This correlation, coupled with the scientific evidence highlighting the potential impact of wildfire smoke on inflammatory conditions, suggests that the wildfires have likely played a significant role in exacerbating Keegan's AxSpa symptoms.

This or That

Are you currently experiencing a flare?

What about the wildfires have made this flare-up worse than usual for Keegan?

Keegan's current flare-up has been one of the most severe he has endured in the last five years Typically, Keegan’s managing pain, stiffness, and brain fog through a flare-up.

It’s not the pain, it’s the nausea that’s toughest. Coming home from work some days, Keegan looked ashen. I knew something was going on and he told me he’d been struggling for days with intense nausea. (At that point, he said he’s rather have the pain of a flare-up!)

Keegan employs a combination of conventional and alternative approaches. Medical marijuana is a particularly helpful treatment for his intense nausea. Additionally, he incorporates ginger and peppermint lozenges, both known for their soothing and calming effects. Some days, he just eats blander foods and takes probiotics to promote good gut health.

Lack of physical activity and outdoor time

AxSpa symptoms can be mitigated through physical activity and exercise, but the ongoing wildfire situation has made it challenging for Keegan. Keegan regularly walks with our kids to keep physically healthy. Plus, physical activity often helps him recover from flare-ups.

However, poor air quality, resulting from the smoke, makes it imperative for him and the kids to stay indoors and avoid inhaling the harmful particles. This is particularly challenging for someone like Keegan, who is a stay-at-home parent, and relies on outdoor time to help get our kid’s energy out and help managing his AxSpa regularly. Living in the Pittsburgh area, we often take hikes, go on walks, and bike as a family. But it’s been difficult this season with poor air quality for both him and the kids.

We’ve found that indoor dance parties, yoga, and indoor bike riding have helped us stay healthy. But some days, like today, we long to be outside when it’s sunny and breezy.

Has anyone else noticed worsening AxSpa symptoms with the wildfires? How have you managed them during this season?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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