Smoke alarm: For some, haze hanging around Casper could cause troubling symptoms

By Kristy Bleizeffer Aug 20, 2015

Casper Mountain is barely visible from behind the veil of smoke. Fires in the Pacific Northwest have caused hazy conditions around the Rocky Mountain region.

Casper Mountain is barely visible from behind the veil of smoke. Fires in the Pacific Northwest have caused hazy conditions around the Rocky Mountain region.

Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest have created a haze that has settled over Casper. Step outside, and you can smell the smoke. It can be more than just a nuisance, said Dr. Ammar Hussieno, a pulmonologist at Wyoming Medical Center.

“Avoidance is the best approach. When it’s really smoky out, try to limit your time outside,” he said.

Healthy people may experience symptoms ranging from red and itchy eyes to strained breathing. Put off your outdoor run or weeding your flower bed until the haze passes.

For patients with asthma, allergies and lung diseases such as COPD, haze and smoke can be more dangerous. Patients may suffer from increased shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, wheezing and increased coughing which produces phlegm or mucus.

“Most of my patients have fragile conditions and limited lung capacity so anything could push them over the edge,” Hussieno said. He offered these tips for patients susceptible to smoke and haze.

  1. Stay inside. Limiting exposure will help limit troubling symptoms later, he said.
  2. Take your medication. If you are asthmatic or a patient with COPD, be sure that you are using your respiratory inhalers regularly and as directed.
  3. Have a plan. Think about ways to treat your condition in case symptoms worsen. Have extra medications on hand. Decide in advance on trigger points for when you should call your doctor or specialist for help in managing your aggravated symptoms. “They can help you control the symptoms before they are significant enough. Hopefully that will keep you out of the hospital.”
  4. Monitor your symptoms. Take note of how you feel and pay attention if you start developing smoke-related symptoms and if they worsen with time. If you have one, use a peak flow meter – an inexpensive, handheld device that measures air flow through the lungs, Hussieno said. “Any patient can blow on that tube and see roughly their lung capacity. If there’s a decline in that lung capacity, they should have a plan in place,” he said. Refer to your plan if symptoms decline. “If you start having fever, chills or more significant coughing with colored mucus, it might indicate a secondary infection and that might require an antibiotic treatment,” Hussieno said.
  5. Seek help: When you’ve followed the plan and felt no relief from symptoms, seek medical care. “If the symptoms are severe and significant, you’re best option is to go to the emergency room,” Hussieno said.

M. Ammar Hussieno M.D.

Dr. Hussieno grew up and went to medical school in Damascus, Syria. He is board certified in pulmonary disease and sleep medicine and is medical director of Wyoming Medical Center’s Sleep Lab. He practices at Casper Pulmonary, 419 S. Washington St. For a referral or an appointment, call (307) 577-0477.

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