Thoughts on dealing with smoke in the air with your equine friends

Posted by Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS on Jun 23rd 2023

Thoughts on dealing with smoke in the air with your equine friends

When smoke is present in the air it is impossible to turn on the HEPA filtered air conditioner in the barn for your horses :). At least in all the barns I know. I did come across barns in Hong Kong years ago that were airconditioned to prevent anhidrosis because of the heat, but that is certainly not the norm in most of the world. Smoky air is usually from wildfires but could be from controlled burns on large farms nearby, or from a barn fire where the horses are exposed to very high concentrations of smoke.

Wildfire smoke is unfortunately a complex mix of natural and unnatural compounds. Wood smoke itself contains carcinogens, but when structures are burned, all the plastics and electronic materials (heavy metals and more) are released into the air and carried with the smoke for all of us to breathe.

To help keep your horses lungs less stressed by the particles in the air, try to minimize adding any more dust by dampening the bedding if possible and not sweeping the aisles when the horses are in the barn. Do not exercise the horse because the increased respiratory rate with drive more particles into the lungs. And allow several days to several weeks after the air clears before returning to full work so the lungs have time to try to clear all the particles out and reduce the inflammation they cause. The longer the smoke is in the air, the longer the time to recover. Also, a very intense exposure (barn fire) may require a longer recovery period.

Here are a few homeopathic remedies that can help. The remedies are usually used at a 30C potency, see the Homeopathic First Aid Book for how to use the remedies.

  • Arsenicum album: For smoke exposure with anxiety, restlessness and burning, runny eyes and nose, dry cough
  • Euphrasia with just eye irritation symptoms
  • Kali bichromicum is best with more sinus symptoms and thick discharges from the nose, sticky phlegm with coughing
  • Nux vomica is great for clearing out the toxic effects of the chemicals, may not be as strong as the others for the runny eyes and noses
  • Silica (silicea) may help clear out the inhaled particles. Traditionally has been used for stuff inside the lungs, dry cough

And a few herbs that are soothing and can help clear the irritation/inflammation created by the particles. These herbs can be given as single herbs or in a formula. Usually these are best given in the raw dried herbal form, since a tincture made from them will lose some of the soothing qualities. These are safe herbs, you can give a handful of them, or can measure about 15-20 grams total.

  • Mullein – (Verbascum thapsus) is a relaxing expectorant, demulcent, that soothes the lung tissue, helping with the dryness and the particles while reducing inflammation.
  • Coltsfoot – (Tussilago farfara) is an expectorant, slows coughing, soothes the mucous membranes, slows many types of coughs.
  • Marshmallow – (Althea officinalis) is a soothing, anti-inflammatory herb that helps with coughs especially when dry, is an expectorant, and really support the mucous membranes.