Wildfire smoke health risks
by Sublette County Rural Health Care District
July 23, 2016
Wildfire smoke can be a significant health risk for those individuals with respiratory and cardiac disease as well as the very young or elderly. With the recent and ongoing wildfires on both the Bridger-Teton and Shoshone National Forests, smoke in Sublette County can be expected. The smoke from both forest and grass fires can be very irritating to the eyes, throat and lungs due to the particles the smoke contains.
Malenda Hoelscher, Health Care Administrator for the RHCD states, "The wildfire smoke can be especially bothersome for our community residents that already have pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Symptoms that are typically associated with wildfire smoke include: difficulty breathing normally, cough with or without mucus, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breathing and exacerbation of already present seasonal allergies."
For most healthy people, low amounts of wildfire smoke are more unpleasant than a health risk. However, David Kappenman, MD warns: "if wildfire smoke is triggering symptoms, especially for those with pre-existing conditions, it is critical that patients should:
Take their medications as prescribed and use a rescue inhaler if one has been prescribed. They should not attempt to take more medication without consulting their medical provider. Consider leaving the area until the air is clear again and/or stay indoors as much as possible with windows closed. Limit or eliminate outdoor exercise until the air clears."
Dr. Kappenman concludes that it is critical if patients are experiencing new or increased symptoms and/or feel they need additional medications or oxygen, they should call the clinic for help in determining the best treatment.
The good news is that while many people may have respiratory symptoms when breathing smoky air, most symptoms are short-lived and resolve as the smoke dissipates.
If you are experiencing new or increased respiratory symptoms as a result of wildfire smoke inhalation, please feel free to call either the Pinedale Medical Clinic at 307-367-4133 or the Marbleton-Big Piney Clinic at 307-276-3306. Please dial 911 for emergencies.