Tips for Coping with Smoke-Related Health Problems
Millions of people across the west live in areas where air pollution can cause serious health problems. In addition, local air quality can affect our daily lives. Who is Affected? Kouros Farro, MD, a physician with Renown Urgent Care, advises that certain people are more likely to be affected when fine particle pollution reaches an unhealthy level. People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People who have heart disease or high blood pressure. Children and older adults. People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors. “Everyone should take precautions when the air quality is unhealthy. Air pollution can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease as well as lung diseases like asthma and COPD. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, use your inhalers as directed and contact your health care provider,” says Dr. Farro, who is board certified in family medicine and practices at Renown Urgent Care at 975 Ryland St. in Reno. “If you do not have a health care provider, there is a Renown Urgent Care office on almost every corner, with providers ready to see you.” Dr. Farro advises the following: Take it easy and listen to your body. Limit, change or postpone your physical activity level. If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires. If you have asthma or other breathing conditions like COPD, make sure you have your relief/rescue inhaler with you. People with asthma should review and follow the direction in their written asthma action plan. Make an appointment to see your health provider to be sure you have an asthma action plan. Getting Same-Day Care Renown Urgent Care provides same-day treatment for a wide range of minor injuries, illnesses and medical concerns that are urgent but not life-threatening. Avoid the long wait times and high emergency room prices at 11 convenient sites, including Reno, Sparks, Carson City, USA Parkway, Fallon and Fernley. You can walk in or book ahead online. Make an Urgent Care Appointment Community Health Resources The Washoe County Health District offers online health information on its Smoke Smart website, including fire information, daily air quality information, fire and smoke maps and how to protect yourself. In addition, an online subscription page allows you to sign up for EnviroFlash, notifying you about air quality.
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Stay Inside When Skies Are Smoky
Even when fires burn outside our area, the air quality in the region can reach dangerous levels. Our expert explains how to maintain your lung health when fire season strikes. It’s a sight we know all too well as northern Nevadans — a hazy or thick layer on the horizon when smoke rolls in from nearby fires. Sometimes the smoke is more evident than others, but it’s important to remember, even when the smoke may not be as visible across the valley, it still impacts our air quality. The last week or so, our air quality has been in the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range, which can be dangerous for people who are sensitive to air pollution. Air Quality Changes: Who’s at Risk? Renown Pediatric Pulmonologist Sonia Budhecha, M.D., explains certain people are especially at risk when smoke moves in: Older people, whose lungs are not as healthy as they used to be Young children, whose lungs are still developing People with heart and lung disease including asthma, COPD and emphysema “Smoke and haze from fires carry particulates that can get into your respiratory system and eyes, which can be a danger for all ages,” Dr. Budhecha says. How You Can Protect Yourself Until the smoke clears and the air returns to the “good” range, it is best to follow these tips to protect yourself and your family: Stay indoors and keep windows closed Turn on the air conditioning to recirculate clean air Drink plenty of fluids to help your body flush out any toxins you inhale Additionally, all community members should reduce their physical activity and try to prevent heavy exertion outside. If you or a loved one has a heart or lung disease, avoid physical exertion altogether because smoke can aggravate these conditions. “People with heart disease may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations or fatigue,” Dr. Budhecha says. “People with lung disease may also have shortness of breath, chest discomfort, wheezing, phlegm or a cough.” Smoky Signs and Symptoms Smoke can also impact healthy people — irritating your eyes, nose or throat. And in some cases, inhaling smoke can lead to bronchitis. When haze moves into our area, keep an eye out for these symptoms: Burning or stinging eyes Runny nose Cough or scratchy throat Headaches Wheezing Shortness of breath Difficult taking a full breath Chest heaviness Lightheadedness Dizziness If experiencing any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention or call your doctor for advice. Sometimes, these symptoms do not appear for as long as 24 to 48 hours after smoke inhalation. For those that have pre-existing lung or heart conditions, consult with a health care provider on action or management plans. To schedule an appointment Visit Renown Pulmonary Medicine, or call 775-982-5000. Understanding Our Air Quality The Air Quality Index (AQI) is broken down by large (PM10) and small (PM2.5) particulates. According to Dr. Budhecha, large particulates are usually ones that can be seen and smelled. They can damage your eyes and nose but don’t often get deep in the lungs or blood vessels. “The more dangerous ones are PM2.5, which can’t always be seen or smelled,” Dr. Budhecha says. “Any time the AQI is above 51, children with lung or heart disease should not be outdoors.” For the latest air quality update in your area, visit AirNow.gov or call (775) 785-4110.
Learn How to Spot Asthma in Children and How It Is Treated
Sometimes, children’s asthma masks itself in symptoms that can be similar to other common respiratory problems. Dr. Shipra Singh of Renown Medical Group – Pediatrics discusses some diagnoses and treatments for asthma in children. Adults can easily recognize when we are out of breath or struggling to breathe, but what if you noticed this regularly happening to your infant or child during their daily play? Would you think they might have asthma? It may be difficult to tell if your small child has asthma because the symptoms can be similar to other common respiratory problems (bronchitis, croup, pneumonia) or even allergies. Read on to learn how to spot and manage asthma in your infant or child with advice from Shipra Singh, M.D., MPH, Pediatric Pulmonologist at Renown Medical Group – Pediatrics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, asthma in children is a leading chronic illness and cause of school absenteeism in the U.S. Asthma is a multi-factorial disease. Smoking during pregnancy or a family history of allergies or asthma has been linked to a greater chance of developing childhood asthma. Asthma is usually on a spectrum and not a single disease. It can range from mild to severe. Because an infant’s or toddler’s airway is smaller than in older children and adults, even a slight blockage caused by mucus or a restricted airway due to swelling can make breathing hard for them. In children five and younger, one of the most common causes of asthma symptoms is a respiratory virus, which narrows the airways in the lungs. These include a cold, the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and other illnesses. How can I tell if my child has asthma? Unfortunately small children are unable to describe their symptoms, making asthma difficult to diagnose. Your child may even be active, playing and smiling, although they are experiencing chest tightness or labored breathing. Observe your child and let the child’s doctor know if: Your child’s breathing behavior has changed (coughing, wheezing, rapid breathing) Your child’s breathing pattern changes (day vs. night, with rest or activity, inside vs. outside) You have a family history of asthma or allergies Your child’s breathing is triggered by any foods or allergies With your help, your child’s doctor can make the best diagnosis to determine if your child has asthma. A pediatric pulmonologist (lung specialist) or pediatric allergist may also have to be consulted for special testing. Tests may include lung function testing, allergy tests, blood tests and X-rays for an accurate diagnosis. What is the treatment for infants and toddlers? Young children can use many of the same medications as older children and adults, although the way they take them and the dosage will differ. A nebulizer (or breathing machine) creating a medicated mist for your child to breathe through a mask may be used. An inhaler with a small spacer tube connected to a mask is also common to help your child breath medication into their lungs. Either of these options are effective. Asthma in children is treated with both fast-acting and long-term medicines to open up airways quickly for easy breathing and also to lessen asthma symptoms over time. Communicate with your child’s medical providers to create a personalized asthma management plan for them. How can I manage my child’s asthma? Recognize your child’s breathing habits and be aware of worsening symptoms. Consult with your child’s doctor on a daily asthma action plan to recognize worsening symptoms and track medications. (Here’s an example of an asthma action plan provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health). Be consistent with the plan and talk to your doctor before changing it. Have an emergency plan in case of a serious asthma attack. Know where the closest ER is and know who can take care of your other children. Also know what the medical treatment coverage is under your insurance plan. We asked Dr. Singh about asthma in children: “Discussing asthma with your child may be a difficult subject. Some kids find the subject frightening or confusing. Others, especially the older kids, may be resentful of the treatment and may not be interested in doing the treatment. Talk to your doctor about advice to build an open and trusting relationship regarding your child’s asthma care.” What can I do to reduce my child’s asthma? Know your child’s asthma triggers (dust, pets, pollen, etc.) Follow your asthma action plan Keep your child away from smoke Can my child outgrow their asthma? Asthma symptoms change day to day and year to year. An older child can better recognize and manage their symptoms, so asthma episodes may lessen. However asthma is a life-long condition of the airways, so it is important to always have an asthma action plan, even with occasional asthma events. Renown Health Pediatric Care | Same-Day Appointments: 775-982-KIDS Our team of pediatricians, specialists and nurse practitioners have specialized training in children’s healthcare needs. We see children from birth to age 18 for the following pediatric needs: Wellness and preventive visits Sick visits Immunizations Behavioral health Allergy Asthma Common cold Diabetes Asthma resources for parents: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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