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Fire smoke could be hazardous for health

August 28, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Doctors say it's not just the smoke that you can actually see that poses a danger. Tiny bits of chemicals and soot, called particulate matter, can lodge in your lungs and eyes and cause coughing, wheezing, and irritation. The only thing more visual than the flames are the spectacular plumes of smoke spreading like ominous clouds.

You can see the ash falling from the sky, but triple digit heat is causing invisible chemical reactions in the air we breathe.

Huntington Hospital in Pasadena is seeing an increase in patients with respiratory distress.

"You can see what direction the smoke is headed and even if you're miles and miles away it can still affect you," said Dr. Ron Antelyes from Huntington Hospital.

Fine particulate matter less than two and half microns can go deep into the lung tissues: this can trigger asthma attacks.

The larger particulates get lodged in eyes, noses and throats causing an increase in allergic reactions.

"Everything in higher temps cause more of the smaller particles and the gases to get absorbed into your system more rapidly and have your tolerance for things to be less," said Dr. Antelyes.

Because of the high temperatures and smoky air, The LA County Department of Public Health is concerned more people can get dehydrated and suffer from heat related illness.

They advise people to stay hydrated, wear loose clothing and not exercise outdoors. If you feel faint, have disorientation, muscle cramps, a weak pulse and trouble breathing head to an emergency room. And if you want to avoid these types of symptoms Dr. Antelyes says to stay indoors.

"Stay out of the smoke and stay inside. That would be the most important thing," said Dr. Antelyes.

This message is especially important for the elderly, people with underlying chronic conditions and the very young.

"They have growing lungs and they're more sensitive because of their growing lungs," said Dr. Antelyes. "You don't want to have long term damage because of what's happening now."

If you can, you should try to keep your children inside. If you do go out make sure you wash their toys. Also remember you should keep your pets indoors as well.

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