By Adam Dendauw
Respiratory Department Manager
It’s that time of year again when the fires flaring up and spreading smoke into the valley. Most of us think of this as an annoying or irritating, which it is, and are more or less unaffected by the exposure. Those of you out there with pulmonary and lung histories, such as COPD or Asthma dread this time even more. Air pollution and smoke exposure are two very big risk factors to those with a lung disease; even a small increase in the air pollutant index increases your chances off hospital admission due to an exposure related exacerbation. We wanted to give you a few tips to help avoid an episode of shortness of breath or an asthma attack due to smoke exposure.
The number one tip is obviously, try and remain indoors and avoid smoke exposure as much as possible during this time, if you must go outside try and check the air quality reports first. There are a few websites that can give you a good idea of what the air quality levels are quickly and easily.
Currently we have a moderate air quality index for the Redding and surrounding areas. Try to remain outdoors as little as possible, even if the air quality is stated as being good or moderate, it can still easily affect those with lung conditions. Avoid the outdoors at all costs if the air index drops to unhealthy. Refrain from any physical activity that is too strenuous or adds other exposures, such as yard work or being around animals. If you can’t avoid an activity, take frequent breaks indoors and out of exposed areas. Also try and do as much as you can early in the day, this is when air quality is at its peak. If you have been prescribed any breathing medications, always carry them with you and consult your doctor about worsening symptoms due to the smoke this time of year, they may be able to give you alternative medications or instructions for your current medications to help with the added smoke risks. When traveling by car, try and keep your windows up and when your air conditioner, please use the internal air circulation to avoid pulling in smoke from the outside.
While indoors, keep your home well ventilated, replace all filters for your air conditioners or central air units in order to cut down on exposure. You can prevent smoke from filtering into your home by making sure that all doors to the outside are properly sealed on all sides and most importantly make sure there is no gap at ground level. Make sure windows are properly sealed off or weather stripped, not only will this help prevent smoke from entering, but it will increase your energy efficiency. Plugging up unused electrical outlets with childproof plastic covers and any other gaps should be filled with suitable filler such as insulating foam for large gaps or silicone caulk for smaller ones. Consider gaps around light fittings, electrical points, around air vents, around plumbing items etc.
Remember that children a are even more prone to problems due to exposure, if your child has a history of asthma or breathing problems, it is best that they avoid smoke exposure if at all possible. Remember to inform their schools, care providers and other family member to be aware of the risks associated with smoke inhalation. Also make sure that they are aware of any breathing medications that they take and that everyone is educated on how to properly use them.
If you or a loved one are caught in an exposure and have shortness of breath try and remain calm, use any breathing medications as prescribed by your doctor, try and get out of the smoke as quickly as possible and rest, taking slow deep breaths, until you feel better. Contact emergency services if you continue to be short of breath. We hope these tips will help, if you have any questions please feel free to contact us, at Mayers Memorial Hospital District Memorial Hospital District. We are Always Caring, Always Here.