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Health experts explain air quality impacts on your health

Posted at 1:48 PM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-21 20:43:19-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — As wildfires continue to burn in the northern parts of California, Kern County residents are still feeling the effects of the smoke and ash in the air outside Friday.

Adventist Health Bakersfield Respiratory, Therapist Chris Lopez, said breathing the air outside for even just two hours in Kern County Friday is equivalent to smoking cigarettes.

“It does seem like four to six-packs equivalency of smoking a day as to the amount of sediment that is actually falling in the air,” Dr.Lopez said.

He said the best thing to do is to stay inside, change your air filters and limit exercise as much as possible because working out makes things worse on your health.

“At least tenfold, it really is you know you are doing extreme activity you breathing in deeper you are breathing in faster and you are inviting everything you can into your lungs,” Dr. Lopez said.

He said it is proven that staying inside makes a significant difference in your health and your home carbon monoxide and smoke alarm can also detail how bad the air is inside. If it's too dangerous it will alert you. However, if you do have to leave your house for dinner, work or any other reason there are some helpful tools to protect your health.

“Bandannas or something like a cloth-like cover if you have access to an N-95 mask because that’s the best to keep small particles out,” Dr. Lopez said.

He said young children, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions including asthma, bronchitis, heart or lung disease are more at risk but he also said if you leave your pets outside they may also be impacted.

“It wouldn’t be uncommon for small pets to have reactions and symptoms not unlike a person vomiting or a sense of choking,” Dr. Lopez said.

As fires are expected to continue and the air quality is essentially becoming worse over the next week here in Kern County, he said some people may start to feel inflammation in their lungs even if you don’t have underlying health conditions. Dr. Lopez also said that many residents are also already feeling the short term effects.

“The emergency room has been very busy a number of patients have been coming in and the number of breathing treatments that are taking place down there, it is well in the hundreds.”

Dr. Lopez said the long term and short term impacts from the unhealthy air quality really depends on the person and it’s difficult to say what they might be, but you can always check with your doctor.

He also said healthy individuals may even experience wheezing, headaches and shortness of breath but he said you shouldn't worry because it’s most likely not related to COVID-19, if you are not running a fever and if you still have your sense of smell and taste.