PeaceHealth pulmonary experts continue to advise: Stay indoors

Houses in the Moon Mountain neighborhood of Eugene at midday on Sunday. The smoke is from several nearby forest fires. Photo by Dan Morrison, Oregon News Lab

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- The National Weather Service has issued three alerts for Lane County: heat advisory, fire weather conditions and air quality. In response, pulmonary experts at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend are once again recommending that all persons with existing pulmonary conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) stay indoors.

"The smoke particulates in the atmosphere irritate the lungs, making breathing more difficult," said Robert Stalbow, Respiratory Therapist at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. "We recommend that people in the higher risk groups reduce their exposure to the hot outdoor air for the duration of this weather event. These groups include infants, children, pregnant women and adults over age 65, as well as those with asthma, respiratory infection, diabetes, lung or heart disease, or those who have had a stroke."

A number of wildfires have broken out across the state of Oregon, and as a result, air quality in Eugene reached "hazardous" conditions on Sunday, according to the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA). Current predictions are that the unhealthy air quality in Lane County will continue through Tuesday.

Stalbow says even indoor air can become a problem. "People with pulmonary difficulties should try to spend as much time as they can in air-conditioned spaces," said Stalbow. "Air conditioning will filter and recirculate cleaner indoor air, which will be much less irritating to the lungs than opening a window and allowing the smoky outdoor air to permeate the living space."

At-risk people without home air conditioning should consider spending time in public air conditioned places such as libraries, shopping malls and movie theaters.

Importantly, those with cardiac and/or pulmonary conditions should contact their physicians if they notice increased shortness of breath at rest or with minimal exertion, and monitor the quality and consistency of any pulmonary secretions (mucus).

"Always seek expert guidance if experiencing unusual episodes of chest pain or tightness, and call 911 for any medical emergency," cautions Stalbow. "And, pulmonary issues are exacerbated by smoking. If you smoke, quitting would be the best thing you can do for yourself!"

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