Clearing the Air: As Air Quality Improves, Wildfire Smoke’s Health Effects to Linger
OAKLAND, Calif. -The impact of lingering smoke from the Butte County Camp fire may continue to be felt by Northern Californians for some time.
“Given our experience over the past year with multiple ‘super’ fires in the region—even with the rain clearing the air—we expect to see an increasing number of patients in the emergency department over the next few weeks with complaints related to persistent wildfire smoke exposure,” said Ronn Berrol, M.D., medical director of Sutter Health’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Summit campus, emergency services.
According to Dr. Berrol, historic levels of air pollution caused by the wildfire, which persisted over much of the northern half of the state for two weeks, has begun an inflammatory process that may worsen pre-existing conditions such as chronic lung disease, congestive heart failure or asthma for some people.
When air pollution is bad, it can irritate eyes, nose and throat, cause shortness of breath, aggravate asthma and other respiratory conditions.
William Isenberg, M.D., vice president for patient safety at Sutter Health’s Office of the Patient Experience, offers the following precautions during this time of smoky or poor air:
- Stay indoors, if possible.
• Use air conditioning, if available—malls are great places for people without their own air conditioning at home.
• Keep hydrated— drinking 8-10, 8 ounces glasses of water per day is recommended.
• Use your maintenance puffers/inhalers if you have asthma, emphysema, or other respiratory diseases
• Carry your rescue puffer/inhaler with you if you leave your home