• Urgent Care
  • Asthma
  • Lung Health

Where There is Smoke; There May Be More Headaches, Nausea and Coughing

July 14, 2021

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Renown Urgent Care team prepares you to stay safe this season and is available seven days a week at 11 locations across northern Nevada

Millions of people across the West live in areas where air pollution can cause serious health problems. Local air quality can affect our daily lives. Like the weather, it can change from day to day.

The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for Plumas County, to notify the public of the possibility of poor air quality conditions resulting from the Beckwourth Complex Fire in addition to other wildfires in northern California. In addition, there is the potential for wind shifts to carry smoke to other parts of Plumas County from the Beckwourth and several other regional wildfires.  Air quality is expected to vary greatly depending on fire behavior and weather conditions, with smoke settling in low areas at night and in the early mornings as long as these fires are active.

The advisory mentions, “Exposure to elevated PM2.5 (fine particulate matter in smoke) concentrations can result in eye and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, congestion, coughing, impaired lung function and chest pain, especially among sensitive individuals such as the elderly, children, people with asthma, people with heart or lung conditions, pregnant women and anyone who is exercising or working hard outdoors.”

Kouros Farro, MD, a physician with Renown Urgent Care advises that there are people who 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, know we have 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 guidance in their written asthma action plan. Make an appointment to see your health provider to be sure you have an asthma action plan.

“Even just one hour of smoke exposure can affect our lungs and hearts, and these consequences can reach people far beyond the direct area endangered by the fire. Children, older adults, pregnant women, people with preexisting cardiopulmonary disease, communities of color, economically disadvantaged communities, and people with preexisting chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, and obesity are all especially vulnerable to the air pollution that wildfires cause," says Dr. David Lemak, Division Chief of Urgent Care at Renown.

Renown Urgent Care provides treatment for a wide range of minor injuries, illnesses and medical concerns that are urgent but not life-threatening, that require same-day medical attention and avoid the long wait times and high prices of the emergency room at 11 convenient sites, including Reno, Sparks, Carson City, USA Parkway, Fallon and Fernley. You can walk-in or book ahead online.

You can get the latest fire and smoke information at the Washoe County Health District’s Be Smoke Smart webpage.  It includes information about air pollution levels and how to protect yourself from the smoke. An on-line subscription page allows you to sign up for EnviroFlash, notifying you about air quality.



About Renown Health

Renown Health is a locally governed, not-for-profit integrated healthcare network serving northern Nevada, Lake Tahoe and northeast California. Renown is one of the region’s largest private employers with a workforce of more than 7,000. It comprises three acute care hospitals, a rehabilitation hospital, the area’s most comprehensive medical group and urgent care network, and the region’s largest and only locally owned not-for-profit insurance company, Hometown Health. Renown has a long tradition and commitment to continually improve the care and the health of our community. For more information, visit renown.org.