Monsoon dust, wildfire smoke or air pollution caused by cars can cause difficulty breathing for people in the Valley during the summertime.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality today is issuing a Health Watch for ozone in the Phoenix area. The state agency is recommending people limit outdoor activity, especially children and adults with respiratory problems.
It’s the seventh health advisory that the state has issued so far in July.
As the air gets worse, emergency departments treat more patients suffering from serious breathing problems.
“We definitely see more patients coming when the air quality has gotten poor,’’ says Zach Bair, DO, assistant director of the Emergency department at Banner Desert Medical Center. Banner Desert is the fifth busiest ED in the country.
“It seems to affect all ages just based on their health. If you are an asthmatic and you are six years old, you can be affected by dust storms just as well as someone who is 60 years old and has COPD.’’
Summer can be especially bad for respiratory patients since in addition to pollution created by automobiles and other sources, there’s also dust from storms and smoke from wildfires in the air.
“Yes, it is a perfect storm of air pollution that can cause lots of respiratory symptoms,’’ Bair says.
Pollution causes peoples’ airways to constrict and lungs to not function as effectively, which causes people to struggle for air.
“When they come to the Emergency department, there are a few things that we can do. We have different medications and treatments that we can administer to help them with their breathing,’’ he says.
“In some cases, when patients are very ill, they may need to be admitted to the hospital for a short period of time.’’
Bair also recommends people who are exposed to dust or smoke take extra precautions, even if they don’t have chronic respiratory problems.
“At home, if people have been exposed to dust or smoke, you want to take your clothes and change them. You want to wash your hair and get all that dust and smoke away from your face.’’
Thomas Ardiles, MD, a critical care and pulmonary specialist at Banner – University Medical Center – Phoenix, also warns that monsoon dust can increase peoples’ chances of contracting Valley Fever, which is an easily misdiagnosed fungal infection found in Arizona and California.