October 19, 2007

Advisory To People With Chronic Lung or Heart Conditions

If you have respiratory problems (including asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and lung cancer) or a heart ailment, extra precautions are necessary in light of blowing smoke from wildfires. Your lungs are more likely to be sensitive to low doses of certain chemical or pollutants. Anticipate a flare up of your condition, and be sure to have a sufficient supply of medications on hand. Stay inside your home and remain calm. Try not to participate in activities that cause shortness of breath . Here are some other tips:

You may need to take extra medication as prescribed. Follow your asthma action plan or your doctor’s instructions to increase medication dosage or add new medication if symptoms worsen. If you have asthma and have been prescribed a controller medication, but have not been consistent with it, this is the time to be regular and consistent.

In general, watch your breathing, take your medications, drink plenty of water (unless on fluid restriction), and follow your doctor’s instructions.

Symptoms to watch for:

Note: Symptoms can come one or two days after exposure. Small soot particles will remain suspended in the air for up to 7 days after the fire is out.

You should feel better after taking your medications as prescribed. However, if you are still having difficulty breathing, call your doctor or a local community clinic or urgent care center.

If the symptoms above are severe or they are not relieved within 30 minutes after taking medications go to an emergency room.

Danger signs/symptoms which indicate breathing difficulties that require an immediate visit to a hospital emergency room:

Gray or blue lips and nail beds of the fingers or toes
Gasping or panting for breath
Severe headache (like a migraine) that is not relieved with aspirin or acetaminophen
Severe pain in the chest, can't take a deep breath
Pain or cramps in the pit of the stomach that won't go away.
Changes in speech, can't finish a sentence without losing one's breath
Changes in vision, blurred vision

Note: It’s natural to experience watery eyes, stuffy or drippy nose, even a cough. Those are not emergencies, if you are a normally healthy adult. Treat with over-the-counter decongestants, cough medicine, nasal spray, or saline.

On the other hand, if people with lung disease are experiencing these symptoms, medical attention could be necessary.

Keeping it cleaner indoors
Don’t smoke
Don’t use spray products – use solid type air fresheners and avoid hairspray
Don’t use strong chemical cleaning products
Dust with damp cloths
If needed, run air conditioning with filter

Sensible Cleanup Precautions. Those with lung disease should not be involved in the clean up process at all. For those not in risk groups:

Hose it down, don’t blow it around
Wear a dust mask during the clean up
Change filters on furnaces, air conditioner, automobile
Consider investing in a high-quality air filter

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