Providence Medford Medical Center encourages health awareness due to smoke

July 30, 2013

As smoke from the Douglas and Whiskey complex of fires pours across southern Oregon, Providence encourages increased health awareness. If you know someone who has heart or lung disease or other chronic conditions that can be impacted by smoke, please take time to check on their safety.

Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.

Smoke can cause:
• Coughing      • Headaches    • A scratchy throat     • Stinging eyes
• Irritated sinuses     • A runny nose     • Shortness of breath     • Asthma exacerbations
• Chest pain

If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse.

People who have heart disease might experience:
• Chest pain      • Shortness of breath
• Rapid heartbeat     • Fatigue

Protect yourself

* Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. This can usually provide some protection, especially in a tightly closed, air-conditioned house in which the air conditioner can be set to re-circulate air instead of bringing in outdoor air.
* Reduce the amount of time engaged in vigorous outdoor physical activity. This can be an important and effective strategy to decrease exposure to inhaled air pollutants and minimize health risks during a smoke event.
* Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol or decaffeinated fluids to keep cool.
* Reduce other sources of indoor air pollution such as burning cigarettes and candles; using gas, propane, and wood burning stoves and furnaces; cooking; and vacuuming.
* Individuals with heart disease or lung diseases such as asthma should follow their health care providers’ advice about prevention and treatment of symptoms.

Should I go to the emergency department? 
Emergency departments treat life-threatening medical problems. Patients with urgent but non-life-threatening needs may have long waiting times and emergency visits typically have a much higher out-of-pocket cost than an office visit. If you are unsure whether the emergency department is right for your immediate care, call your physician or Providence Medical Group clinic and we’ll let you know the right place to go for the best treatment. A licensed health care provider is available 24/7 to help you make the right decision.

The following signs are considered medical emergencies. If you have any of these, go directly to your nearest emergency department or call 911.

• Chest pressure, tightness, heaviness or pain
• Trouble breathing
• Bleeding that won’t stop
• Severe abdominal (stomach) pain
• Severe head injury
• Stroke symptoms (slurred speech, weakness, numbness or difficulty with balance)