Those with Respiratory Conditions are Especially at Risk in Craig

With wildfire season upon us and a 162-acre fire already burning near the border of Routt and Moffat counties, anyone with breathing or respiratory issues should pay close attention to air quality. 

Wind, pollen and dust are often the root cause of summer breathing problems in the high country, which can turn especially serious for those suffering from respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. These problems can be exacerbated due to wildfire smoke. 

Symptoms might include a tight chest, trouble taking a deep breath, tickling or burning in the lungs, whistling from the lungs (wheezing), coughing and uncontrolled coughing. 

Anyone with known breathing conditions should avoid outdoor exposure as much as possible and take respiratory medications as prescribed, said Anessa Kopsa, cardiopulmonary manager and respiratory therapist at Memorial Regional Health.

Weather’s effects on the lungs

Hot weather can aggravate respiratory disorders like COPD and it can trigger asthma symptoms, according to the American Lung Association. The correlation has to do with the airway inflammation that occurs when breathing in hot air.

“If you know you have problems breathing when it is smoky outside from fires, please stay inside if you can and make sure you take your respiratory and other medications as prescribed,” Kopsa said. “Asthma and COPD attacks can come on quickly. If your rescue inhalers are not working, seek medical help — don’t wait until you are in severe distress.”

People who are under the age of 18 or over the age of 65, and those with chronic heart disease or diabetes, are also at an increased risk for breathing complications due to smoky air. The American Lung Association suggests taking precautions such as staying indoors, rolling up car windows, protecting air inside the home by keeping windows, doors and fireplace dampers shut, avoiding outdoor exercise and never putting too much faith in dust masks. 

Ordinary dust masks only filter out large particles, while masks that claim to filter out damaging fine particles may not fit properly or can be difficult to use for those with lung disease. 

“These masks can make it more difficult for anyone to breathe and should only be used if you must go outside,” according to the American Lung Association. “Consult with your doctor before using a mask, especially if you have a lung disease.”

Kopsa also recommends drinking lots of water, avoiding long exposure to heat and wearing a mask or handkerchief if you must go out in smoky conditions.

Pulmonary services offered at MRH

  • Pulmonary Function Testing (breathing tests) to diagnose asthma, COPD and other breathing conditions. 
  • Asthma education by a certified Asthma Educator to help you live an active life with the disease. 
  • Education on how to properly take respiratory medications. 
  • Treatment of acute and chronic respiratory episodes in the emergency room.

To schedule an appointment, call 970-826-2210.