BEND, OR -- Central Oregon's air has been classified as hazardous, leading to further health concerns and warnings. St. Charles Medical Center Pulmonologist Dr. Jamie Conklin says current conditions can make anyone feel sick, especially those who already have a respiratory condition.
Dr. Conklin says he hasn't seen a higher number of patients due to the smoke, but those who are coming in report more severe symptoms, including "More short of breath, compared to this time usually, they're having more coughs, potentially more wheezing, needing to use their rescue medication more frequently." Conklin tells KBND News, "The problem they're experiencing is smoke." But, he discourages people from just assuming symptoms are smoke-related. "If they're really having a breathing difficulty, it's better to find out it is just the smoke than to have a serious medical problem missed."
For most people, the conditions aren't likely to cause permanent harm. "For healthy lungs, most people with a short-term exposure, it's unlikely to cause anything more than uncomfortable symptoms - sore throat, tightness of the chest, a little bit more short of breath," Says Dr. Conklin. "Now, if you went out and rode your bike, that's going to probably put more strain on the system and make you feel worse." He suggests taking a few steps to stay safe. "The number one thing is - no fires - but, unfortunately, that doesn't seem like it's going to occur in the short period of time. Second is avoidance. Unfortunately, not all of us can leave the area, so then staying out of the air as much as possible, and hopefully in an environment that has some kind of filtration system. The one thing I want to warn people, though, is that no air purifier purifies perfectly."
Dr. Conklin says the smoke can also lead to allergy-like symptoms, especially for people allergic to the natural materials burning in those wildfires.