CDC warns of smoke from south Georgia wildfires

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email

News 12 at 11/ July 8, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga-- If you walked outside, you may have noticed that smell of smoke and the hazy sky. You can thank wildfires from south Georgia.

For some, it's more than just a bad smell, it's bad for their health.

Kathleen Ernce describes her symptoms, "It's as if you're sitting on someone's chest preventing them from getting air in."

That's exactly what this smoke is doing to her and she has asthma.

Ernce says, "I'm also allergic to the world: trees, grass, mold, mildew, smoke."

When there's smoke filing our skies, it's probably filing her lungs.

Ernce says, "Right now, I'm having to take more of the asthma medication to help me to breathe a little easier."

That's on top of the medications she already takes. She has a ceiling fan in almost every room and an air filter.

Just on the way to an appointment, Ernce says she struggled.

Ernce says, "Although I was outside for a very short period of time, I could tell I was going "ahh uhh", you know, it was just kind of labored breathing."

Even those without respiratory problems need that breath of fresh air.

Georgia Health Sciences University pulmonologist Thomas Dillard says, "Even healthy people can develop symptoms if the air quality gets bad enough."

Dr. Dillard says he has seen some people come in with concerns.

While some try to shut it out, Ernce says, "Just stay inside."

Others have to work in it.

Dr. Dillard says, "Well, for healthy individuals who enjoy recreational activities outside or who work outside the same guidance would apply. If the air quality index gets high, then they would need to curtail their activities if they can and talk to their employers and ask them what to do."

While the levels are not high enough now, this fog and the heat is enough to keep Kathleen and a lot of others indoors.

Symptoms can range from a scratchy throat all the way to chest pains.

The CDC sent out a warning, they say older adults, children, and those with respiratory problems can be most susceptible.

They are urging people to limit their exposure to the smoke if it worsens.

From CDC:

Smoke can cause-
· Photo of wild fire.Coughing
· A scratchy throat
· Irritated sinuses
· Shortness of breath
· Chest pain
· Headaches
· Stinging eyes
· A runny nose
· Asthma exacerbation

If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse.

People who have heart disease might experience-
· Chest pain
· Rapid heartbeat
· Shortness of breath
· Fatigue

Smoke may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in the following ways:
· Inability to breathe normally
· Cough with or without mucus
· Chest discomfort
· Wheezing and shortness of breath

When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience some of these symptoms.

Know whether you are at risk: If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems than healthy people.

Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people.

Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.

Protect yourself:
Limit your exposure to smoke. Following are ways to protect your health:

Pay attention to local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke. Find out if your community provides reports about the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index (AQI). Also pay attention to public health messages about taking additional safety measures.

Refer to visibility guides if they are available. Not every community has a monitor that measures the amount of particles that are in the air. In the western part of the United States, some communities have guidelines to help people estimate AQI based on how far they can see.

CDC at 800-CDC-INFO (English and Spanish) or 888-232-6348 (TTY) Occupational Safety and Health.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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