Pacific Northwest fires have drawn attention to our fragility and susceptibility to alteration in something as basic as our air supply. Contaminants vary from event to event and our vulnerability varies from person to person. It’s safe to assume that toxicity, density, and length of exposure to the contaminant increases medical risk factors in direct relation to the health status of the person breathing the air.
Typically, a forest fire produces carbon dioxide, water vapor, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and other organic material, nitrogen oxides, trace minerals and thousands of other compounds depending on the uniqueness of the burning matter and surrounding conditions. The toxic effects of all dissipate with wind and weather but as we all witnessed lately the elements can still deliver sufficient toxic amounts to cause problems that are very real.
All of us probably experienced the obvious irritating effects of the elements in the air. External eye irritation and redness and perhaps a runny nose reflect the local inflammatory response to these agents in ambient air. As in all medical matters, if there are pre-existing conditions affecting eyes or nasal passages, the smoke will make them worse and require medical attention, but the vast majority of people simply have to put up with it.
The effects can be more serious if the exposure is more intense or prolonged or involves an individual whose health is compromised by acute or chronic unrelated conditions. The most obvious example would be individuals with heart and lung disease. The ability to breath easily and effectively is most imperative in these individuals. If their “work of breathing” is increased, or their ability to oxygenate or ventilate is compromised by irritation of upper and lower airways, things can get out of hand quickly and require timely intervention by medically trained individuals. It’s safe to say that any patient with substantial heart or lung ailment is at risk, i.e. not just asthmatics or coronary artery disease patients.
So how do we address this problem?
Anticipate. Check weather reports and Air Quality Indices when fires are ongoing.
Prepare. Make contingency plans to avoid pollutants. Stay indoors as much as possible with air filters in place. Do not plan prolonged exercise outdoors until the Air Quality Index allows.
Be practical. If you cannot avoid exposure, wear a mask. To be effective, the mask has to fit proper and it must be designed to filter out particulate matter and fumes and gasses. The P95 mask is appropriate.
Be careful. If you have chronic lung or heart disease do not forget your meds or oxygen if prescribed.
Be smart. If you experience increased cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or sputum production call your Healthcare Provider and avoid more serious problems that can be avoided.
I was watching a film with my husband the other day and before I knew it, I was on my phone checking out Facebook even though I really enjoyed the show. I lost track of the plot and we had to rewind so I could catch up. I thought to myself, why can’t I just concentrate on the movie?
A report from Pew Research Center shows that a third of our society believes cell phones make it more difficult to focus on a single task. Well, that sounds like me, I thought. But is it a habit or a distraction, or perhaps neither?
Although frequent cell phone use is a habit that I can control, some people struggle to maintain control over their ability to stay on task. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that around 6 million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), or ADD (attention deficit disorder, a subset of ADHD). Unfortunately, CDC also indicates that in Idaho, not many children receive medical management or behavioral therapies for this brain disorder.
Children, adolescents, or even adults who suffer with ADHD or ADD present with several symptoms, such as daydreaming or zoning out, forgetting appointments or assignments, making frequent mistakes, having difficulty waiting for their turn and many other symptoms. Patients may appear to be overly active or inattentive or a mixture of both. Many times, causes of such behaviors can be identified. Sometimes, we don’t really know what causes these symptoms but we can identify risk factors that may predispose people to have problems managing these types of behaviors.
Diagnosis can consist of several steps and it is very important to rule out other factors that may contribute to either a child or adolescent not paying attention in school such as bad vision, problems with hearing, or other causes. When physical problems are ruled out, the probability of ADHD is somewhat high. Then, we can use therapy and medications to help manage the symptoms. Often, we see noticeable improvement in kids, adolescents, or adults who have begun treatment and therapy for ADHD. They’re able to pay attention in class, at home, and while playing sports, and their academic performance improves.
If you or a loved one seems to have symptoms of attention deficit disorder, I encourage a visit with your medical provider. Together, you can decide what steps to take to better manage your life.
Anna is a Nurse Practitioner specializing in psychiatrics. She works closely with mental health professionals and physicians to support patients living with mental health disorders. Anna is available to meet with patients 12 and older. Call (208) 354-2302 or follow our patient portal link here to schedule a visit.
Most people who live in this valley love winter and the multiple outdoor opportunities that are available following an epic snow storm. We wake up every morning, check the weather, and adjust our day if possible. Of course, Mother Nature is not predictable. Just as it has been challenging to predict weather patterns, it has been equally challenging to predict the drift and shift of the influenza virus. This flu season is approaching numbers seen during the 2009 pandemic. At the time this article was written, the proportion of influenza deaths is above the epidemic threshold for week 2 in the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Mortality Surveillance System. We are all at risk for infection. The greatest risk falls on our children, immunocompromised, and folks over the age 65. As of now, there are a reported 53 pediatric deaths related to influenza.
We have to make choices every day about our health and wellness — from the food we eat to the medications and supplements we take. One thing remains clear and unified — we all want what’s best for our families. Similarly, it is important to know the facts about vaccinations and influenza in order to make informed decisions.
The flu is a contagious virus effecting the respiratory system. It often presents like a respiratory infection but can also present with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
You can spread the virus up to 6 ft away with a good cough or sneeze.
Symptoms start 1-4 days after being infected with the virus. You can spread the virus from day 1 prior to showing symptoms up to about 7 days after symptoms develop. That means you can spread the infection even without having symptoms. This is why hand hygiene is so important.
Some people can be infected and have no symptoms but they can still spread the virus.
Purchases of over-the-counter flu medications generally cost a lot more than getting a flu shot, especially if the immunization is covered by insurance. In addition, the over the counter flu medications only target symptoms. You body must fight the virus.
Vaccinations don’t always “match” the virus because scientists have to guess which strain(s) will be prevalent in the upcoming year.
Vaccines don’t offer 100 percent protection, and there have been occasions when their effectiveness turned out to be less than 10 percent. This is because the virus changes its surface proteins to survive and persist in our environment.
The vaccine is not made of a live virus. You don’t catch influenza from the vaccine. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to stimulate an immune response in your body that is protective against the virus. If you develop a cold or influenza around the time you received the vaccine, you were likely already infected.
If you catch the flu but had a flu shot, your illness may be less severe than if you hadn’t received the vaccination because your immune system is ready for it.
People of all ages die each year from flu complications but it is especially dangerous for young children and seniors.
People miss work, kids miss school, and people are hospitalized due to flu.
The illness can make you very sick even if you are otherwise healthy.
Hospitalizations and missed work cost quite a bit more than flu shots.
Death from influenza is potentially preventable.
There is no cure for influenza. If you are infected, your body must fight the illness.
Tamilfu is a medication that prevents the virus from replicating in your body and allows your immune system a chance to work faster. It does not cure the virus.
Antibiotics do not treat influenza.
Driggs, Victor and Cache Clinics are offering the quadrivalent and high-dose formulation of the vaccine. The quad includes an additional B-strain vaccine. Trivalent shots do not include additional B-strain protection. If this difference concerns you, make sure you ask what type of shot is available. Many non-medical businesses may offer only the trivalent dosage.
High-dosage vaccines as recommended for people over the age of 65 or with compromised immune systems.
No appointment is necessary to get a flu shot at any of our clinics. Remember that Cache Clinic does not bill insurance, and if you come to Cache specifically for a shot, you won’t be charged an additional exam fee unless you need and ask for an additional exam.