879 Wet Mountain Tribune - Page 1 - 8/27/2015
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8/27/2015 The lazy, hazy days of August: Out-of-state wildfires bring smoke -- and health concerns -- to the Valley
The Valley has been overlaid with gray haze for the past couple weeks, increasing allergy symptoms for residents and visitors. In some cases, the haze has even created bronchitis-like coughs that have sent many to the doctor. Fire Chief Dave Tonsing stated that the haze is being blown in from the fires in the Northwest in what is currently considered the worst wildfire season that region has ever had. “If you think we have it bad here,” Tonsing said, “Denver has it worse.” As of yesterday, Denver has restricted air travel because the haze has been so thick. Dr. Richard “Rich” Amesquita, from the Custer County Medical Clinic, told the Tribune that he has seen about a dozen patients suffering from effects of the haze. Patients have come in with severe watery or itchy eyes and coughing. He has also seen patients who suffer from haze-induced symptoms, compounding previous health issues including asthma, chronic lung disease, and frequent colds. “Many have come in complaining of bronchitis symptoms,” Dr. Rich said, “because of a cough or that their chest burns when they take a breath. Today, even I have some of those symptoms, and it is because of the bad air.” Dr. Rich stated that “there’s not a whole lot you can do for this stuff. How are you going to clean the air?” However, he recommends people should try to keep from being exposed to the smoke particulates by staying indoors or where it is air-conditioned. He also recommended that people keep their windows closed day and night. If someone has chronic issues and has an inhaler, Dr. Rich urges them to use the inhaler more often to help their lungs. He also suggested the “barrier method,” where people wear goggles and a mask. “Some people might think that’s strange,” he laughed, “but those who are oxygen dependent should be wearing masks.” Until the air clears, he suggests that people take a Claritin allergy pill every day. If someone is suffering from nasal congestion or a constant drip, they should use Afrin, but for only three days. It can be purchased over the counter. “If neither of them work,” he said, “use Benadryl. Most people don’t like it because it is also a sedative, but you can break them in half. Anyone who is 65 years and older shouldn’t take too much Benadryl.” Dr. Rich explained that part of the problem in the Valley was caused by the near constant rain days before the fires started. The rain made plants grow and bloom, releasing clouds of pollen into the air. “So we were set up for these allergens,” he said. “There’s no magic pill to fix this, unfortunately. This too shall pass. The fires will burn themselves out or be put out, and we are just caught downwind.” Fire Chief Tonsing stated that the haze will leave the Valley as soon as the fires are put out. Until then, Dr. Rich urges people to seek medical attention if these symptoms become too much. To schedule an appointment, call the clinic at 783-2380. – J.E. Ward
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