Smoke from wildfires adds to woes for allergy sufferers

Smoke from wildfires adds to woes for allergy sufferers

19 April 2011

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USA — High winds and smoke from area wildfires are fueling breathing problems for asthma and allergy sufferers in North Texas.

At Weatherford Regional Medical Center, about 50 miles from Possum Kingdom Lake, where a massive wildfire has scorched nearly 150,000 acres, the emergency department has been packed with patients suffering from respiratory symptoms.

“Allergies have gone through the roof,” said Cory Countryman, the hospital’s chief executive. “Across the board, we’ve seen a lot more people who just can’t breathe.”

Spring is typicaly a busy time of the year at the Allergy and Asthma Clinic of Fort Worth, but the smoke and winds have increased patient calls by about 20 percent..

“The wind keeps the pollen in the air and the smoke is an irritant,” said Dr. James Haden, a Fort Worth allergist.

Rising temperatures, strong winds and lower relative humidity are to blame for the misery. Hickory, oak and sycamore are among the top offenders. Maple and grass have also registered high, according to pollen reports by Dr. Jeffrey Adelglass, a Dallas ear, nose and throat specialist.

Over the last week, pulmonary problems have gotten worse due to smoke, pollen and sand in the air around Weatherford, Countryman said, noting a dramatic uptick over last year.

People who are sensitive of allergens or those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, asthma and other pre-existing conditions should stay indoors, experts said.

The weather can irritate nasal passages and anything that leads of inflammation can increase the risk of an infection, Haden said.

There is relief on the horizon. Weaker winds and rain are predicted later this week.

“The pollen usually drops after a rain and hopefully the smoke with do the same thing,” Hayden said.

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