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Fire Season: Respiratory Health a Concern

Barlow Respiratory Hospital Provides Health Tips for Days During and

Following a Fire

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Where there's fire, there's smoke, and that's not good for your respiratory health, cautions experts at Barlow Respiratory Hospital, a long-term, acute care hospital serving Southern California since 1902.

Residents far beyond the burn areas should monitor their respiratory health during what may be a long fire season. Amidst the intense fire activity, air quality will get worse and greater health risks will arise, says Dr. David Nelson, medical director at Barlow Respiratory Hospital.

"When we think about our safety during a local fire, it is important to also take measures to safeguard our respiratory health," says Dr. Nelson. "Nearby wild fires can pose significant threats to our health, and we must heed the warnings before health problems arise."

Smoke can cause coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, headaches and chest discomfort. Smoke can also irritate the eyes and sinuses and cause a scratchy throat and runny nose.

High levels of smoke can affect anyone, including healthy people. Senior citizens, many of whom have pre-existing medical conditions, and children, who are more active and breathe more air per pound of body weight, may be more susceptible to the ill effects of smoke. Smoke can also aggravate symptoms for those with heart and respiratory conditions, including angina, congestive heart failure, allergies, asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis -- forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

"Take precautions in the beginning stages of a fire to minimize smoke exposure," says Dr. Nelson. "Enough smoke exposure can cause significant discomfort in healthy people that may last several days. It can also greatly aggravate symptoms for conditions as basic as allergies and as life threatening as asthma, heart disease and respiratory disease."

When smoke levels are high on days during or following a fire, follow these important tips to protect your respiratory health:

-- Remain indoors: If you are not advised to evacuate, limit your exposure

to smoke by remaining indoors. Also, the local federal agency on air

quality recommends restricting outdoor exercise to one hour or less.

-- Protect your indoor air quality: Keep all windows and doors closed,

unless it is too warm indoors. If you do not have an air conditioner

and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter

elsewhere. If you have an air conditioner, keep the fresh-air intake

closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting


-- Minimize indoor pollution: Avoid using anything that burns, including

candles, fireplaces or gas stoves. Do not smoke. Also avoid cleaning

activities that stir up particles, such as dusting and vacuuming.

-- Do not rely on dust masks. According to the national Centers for

Disease Control (CDC), paper dust masks, like those found at hardware

stores, are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust, but will

not protect your lungs from smoke. The CDC says an 'N95' mask, properly

worn, will offer some protection from smoke.

-- Cooperate immediately with local authorities: Promptly follow all

evacuation instructions. Even if you are not instructed to evacuate but

reside where there is a lot of smoke from an ongoing fire, consider

staying in an area where there is less smoke.

-- Maintain doctor-prescribed medication and respiratory care regimens: If

you have asthma or other chronic respiratory disease, follow your

treatment regimen, and contact your physician if your condition


For more information, visit the CDC online at for resources to protect your health against wildfires and other air pollutants. Also, pay attention to local air quality reports from the South Coast Air Quality Management District,

The only one of its kind on the West Coast, Barlow Respiratory Hospital is recognized as a national leader in weaning ventilator-dependent patients and for treating patients with complex medical conditions that require longer hospital stays. Celebrating more than 100 years of service in Southern California, the long-term, acute care hospital, with multiple hospital facilities throughout the area, works with nearly 100 regional hospitals to provide care for the critically ill.

Media Contact:

Rachael Payne/Jennifer Zabriskie


SOURCE Barlow Respiratory Hospital
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