Poor air quality can cause health issues

Local4 News at 5
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 7:45 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2023 at 9:33 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - This isn’t the first time Canadian wildfires have impacted our air quality here in Central Nebraska and it might not be the last, that’s why it’s important to know that smoke could lead to health issues for people with underlying conditions.

Those underlying issues could be asthma, pulmonary disease, or a heart condition. People who are fairly healthy may experience watery or burning eyes, and maybe a cough or headache. That’s just a sign that they’re inhaling some of the particles in the smoke.

Officials are also urging people to take precautionary measures while we’re experiencing poor air quality, saying people should limit exposure by staying indoors.

People who play sports or work in the elements are encouraged to take frequent breaks and have an action plan in place in case of emergency. Central District Health Department’s Health Director Teresa Anderson explained how poor air quality can effect someone’s health.

“For people who have chronic underlining health conditions the smoke, the very tinny particles in this current smoke can get into the lungs and kinda lodge and there and cause problems that way with air exchange,” Anderson said. “So that’s why we’re asking that people be very cautious, especially if they have an underlining health condition.”

Anderson said although each individual is different, the smoke could trigger a reaction. She said the particles tend to lodge in the lower portion of your airway, causing congestion and reducing the oxygen exchange leading to shortness of breathe and trouble breathing. If a person has a heart condition, it can cause chest pain.

Pulmonary nurse, Lauren Kline said even healthy individuals should proceed with caution.

“Maybe allergy type symptoms, a runny noise, watery eyes,” Kline said. “The long term effects, given the short amount of the expected pollution time is probably not going to be hugely significant. However, any long term pollution exposure can lead to respiratory illness.”

Kline said although this current round of air pollution is unlikely to directly cause respiratory illness, continued exposure can. She said while asthma is typically seen in youth, it can also occur in later adulthood.

Those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should also take extra precaution during this time as the smoke can cause inflammation at a more rapid pace. Officials said it’s also important to have fresh, clean air to come home to.

”If you have to work outside all day, when you go home in the evening make sure that you have your air conditioning on and your windows closed so that the air in you house in cleaner,” Anderson said. “You may even want to consider having a HEPA filter in your home to help clear that additional particles out of the air.”

For people who like to exercise outdoors, health officials recommend switching up your routine.

“Right now, especially patients with lung disease I would recommend exercising indoors if able or taking frequent breaks,” Kline said. “Making sure that you have a rescue inhaler if you have one, you know if your health care provider has given you on that you are caring that with you.”

Kline said young children and anyone over the age of 65 is at higher risk of suffering from respiratory issues.