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Experts say avoid fire smoke at all cost

September 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
You may think you're healthy, even though the air is thick with smoke from the fires, but many of us may have respiratory damage and just not know it.Just because you don't have asthma or any other lung condition that doesn't mean smoke from the wildfires won't hit your hard.

"Twenty-five percent of people have some sort of propensity to excess reaction," said Dr. Zab Mosenifar from Cedars Sinai's Women's Guild Lung Institute.

Dr. Mosenifar says about one in four people have susceptible airways.

When microscopic particulates find their way into the tiny air sacs of lungs, it can create a reaction in otherwise healthy people.

"You may have a cascade of events in your alveolar system and if you're someone who is genetically sensitive it may have a long term impact," said Dr. Mosenifar.

In his lab, Dr. Mosenifar can simulate irritants one might be exposed to in poor air quality.

"We test their lung functions to see if they react to these provocation agents," said Dr. Mosenifar.

If a patient's lung function does not fall off, their airways are fine.

Even though 75 percent of the time, the lungs of a healthy individual won't react many people say they are trying to stay inside.

"I've been hearing that the layers are all the way out to the ocean," said L.A. resident Kathleen Gray.

Kathleen says she's staying indoors.

"I'm getting older and I used to smoke and I know I've got to be careful," said Kathleen.

The bottom line from experts: don't spend time outside to find out if you're hypersensitive.

"The advice should be that we shouldn't' be doing this experiment and we should avoid it," said Dr. Mosenifar.

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