As the deadly wildfires that devastated Northern California this month come under control and residents begin the process of rebuilding, one question that lingers is the longer-term health effects of the smoke.

The answer to that question isn’t universal, said John Balmes, MD, a UC San Francisco pulmonologist and an expert on the respiratory and cardiovascular effects of air pollutants.

Young children, the elderly and others who may be frailer because of health conditions may be more affected by the smoke. Most healthy adults can recover fully from respiratory smoke damage, even in severe cases.