Air quality causes uptick in emergency room visits by people with underlying conditions

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 11:44 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - As the Mosquito Fire burns in California, smoke continues to blanket our area, causing an increase in emergency room visits by people with underlying conditions.

According to Dr. Jenny Wilson, Medical Director at Saint Mary’s emergency department, many of these patients have lung diseases like asthma and COPD.

“They’re people who haven’t had one of these attacks, they said like in years,” she said.

Some of the symptoms include difficulty breathing and coughing.

Wilson explained that even for those without underlying conditions, the recommendation is to stay indoors as the smoke can inflame the already sensitive lining of the lungs.

“It can make you dizzy, it can give you a headache. It’s smoke inhalation, it’s the definition of smoke inhalation obviously not to the degree of smoke inhalation you would get in a burning building, but as you get into thicker smoke it kind of acts like that,” said Wilson. “I would advise to exercise inside and get a jump rope.”

As of 11:00 p.m. Tuesday, the AQI is 294, which is very unhealthy and close to hazardous, according to AirNow.

If you have to go out, make sure to wear a mask that can help you avoid inhaling ash.

“If you come out to your car in the morning or in the afternoon after your shift and see it’s covered in ash, that’s what all of us are inhaling,” said Wilson.

She adds that the smoke has been particularly difficult for the unhoused, who are coming into the ER with a myriad of symptoms.