ER visits spike amid wildfire smoke: asthma, breathing problems
Wildfire Smoke from Canada Causes Spike in Respiratory Problems in NYC
New York City hospitals are seeing a significant increase in emergency visits for respiratory issues like asthma due to smoke from Canadian wildfires. According to Northwell Health, the number of asthma treatments doubled at Lenox Health Greenwich Village compared to their average. On June 7, the air quality index (AQI) reached 254, which is considered “very unhealthy,” due to the smoke’s presence in the area. The AQI just two days prior was at an acceptable level of 53, as reported by the U.S. government’s AirNow website.
Particulate matter, called PM 2.5, is the primary pollutant during wildfires. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) explains that PM 2.5 can consist of various types of burned particles that impact respiratory health. It can cause short-term effects such as coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath and worsen underlying medical conditions like heart and lung disease.
Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, recommends that everyone, especially high-risk groups, take precautions against the smoke’s impacts. She advises people to stay inside on bad air-quality days, run HEPA air purifiers, keep windows closed, and wear N95 or KN95 masks outside.
An air quality alert issued by the New York DEC for Long Island, New York City Metro, and Western New York regions will remain in effect until June 9. Meanwhile, Canada is also struggling with over 400 active fires, as reported by CBS News.
Q: What is causing the increase in respiratory problems in NYC hospitals?
A: The smoke from Canadian wildfires is impacting the air quality in the region, resulting in higher levels of particulate matter known as PM 2.5.
Q: What is PM 2.5, and how does it affect respiratory health?
A: PM 2.5 is particulate matter that’s 2.5 microns wide or smaller that comes from burning particles. It can worsen underlying medical conditions like asthma and heart disease and cause respiratory effects such as coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath.
Q: Who is at the most risk for respiratory problems due to the smoke?
A: High-risk groups like children, the elderly, pregnant women, and individuals with lung disease, heart disease, or immunocompromised conditions are most vulnerable to the smoke’s impacts.
Q: What precautions can people take to protect their respiratory health during air-quality alerts?
A: Dr. Purvi Parikh advises staying indoors on bad air-quality days, running HEPA air purifiers, keeping windows closed, and wearing N95 or KN95 masks outside.
Q: How long is the air quality alert in effect for the affected regions?
A: The New York DEC has issued an air quality alert until June 9 for Long Island, New York City Metro, and Western New York regions.
Asthma and Breathing Problems Prompt Increase in ER Visits During Wildfire Smoke Episode
Hospitals in New York City have seen a significant rise in emergency room visits for asthma and other respiratory issues owing to smoke from wildfires in Canada. According to a spokesperson for Northwell Health, the number of asthma treatments at Lenox Health Greenwich Village was over twice the average given the present circumstances. The air quality index reached 254 on June 7, with the region shrouded by an eerie orange sky. Only two days before, the AQI was rated at a much more acceptable 53. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation warned that the pollutant of most concern during wildfires is PM 2.5. The fine particulate matter is known to cause short-term health effects, including coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath, as well as aggravating conditions such as asthma or heart disease. Those with lung or heart disease, or who have an immunodeficiency, need to take particular care, but even those at low risk are advised to run HEPA purifiers, keep windows shut and wear high-grade medical masks, such as N95 or KN95, outside. Smoke from the wildfires in Canada has also caused an air-quality alert in NY, Long Island, and Western NY until Friday, June 9. Canada itself has more than 400 active forest fires, according to CBS News.