• Children, adults with asthma battle to breathe in wildfire smoke

    By: Linzi Sheldon

    Updated:

    For local children and adults in Western Washington with asthma, the wildfire smoke can make it tougher to breathe very quickly.

    Kent mother Elisha Chaney said her son, Jeremiah, is an active 8-year-old who wants to be outside all the time. Normally, this doesn’t pose a problem with his asthma.

    “Usually, he does really well with his asthma,” she said. “It’s not very bad. But this year in the past couple of weeks, it’s gotten worse.”

    Only two weeks ago, during our area’s first bout with intense wildfire smoke this summer, Chaney had to take Jeremiah to urgent care with a bad cough. They gave him a breathing treatment, she said, and a prescription for a steroid, but after three days, he still wasn’t improving.

    “He was just coughing and wasn’t catching his breath,” she said. “He said he was feeling dizzy.”

    Chaney took him to the emergency room.

    “I had a fun experience at the emergency room,” Jeremiah said. “They gave me an X-ray… they gave me a breathing treatment and a popsicle after.”

    “It’s scary because you want to do everything you can to help him, but you can’t breathe for him, obviously,” Chaney said.

    Jeremiah isn’t the only one hit hard by the smoke.

    KIRO 7 spoke with a dog walker, Celina, at Green Lake Park, who wore a mask as she walked one of her clients’ dogs.

    “The air quality’s pretty terrible overall,” she said. “Yesterday, I came out walking her and I came back home with—like, I was kind of wheezing,” she said.

    While plenty of others at the park were not wearing masks and didn’t appear to be bothered by the smoke, Celina, who also deals with asthma, said she wasn’t taking any chances.

    “I feel like people just don’t realize how bad it is or they don’t really want to have to adjust to how bad it is,” she said.

    According to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and local health officials, smoke can cause a range of health issues. In addition to asthma attacks, it can lead to trouble breathing, coughing, stinging eyes, irritated sinuses, headaches, chest pain and fast heartbeat.

    “Yesterday we actually started with fairly low levels and built up as the day went on,” Erik Saganic, an air quality forecaster with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, said. “Today we started out high and we're still high… we still have high levels of smoke today.”

    Saganic said people may be feeling some of the impacts more than they did on Monday.

    “People who are generally healthy might start to feel like, ‘Wow, it's harder to walk today, it's harder to run today,’” he said.

    Elisha Chaney said she tries to keep Jeremiah inside as much as she can in poor-quality air like this.

    “He’s very active and it’s hard,” she said. “I let him go out for 20-30 minutes at a time and then come back in and rest.”

    Per doctors’ orders, they’ve upped Jeremiah’s use of two different inhalers. She said if mothers are worried their kids might be having trouble with the hazy smoke, she advises them to try to pay close attention to their breathing throughout the day.

    “They don’t always know how to explain the way they’re feeling,” she said.

    Even though the air quality is supposed to improve later in the week, Saganic cautions that people can still experience side effects from the smoke exposure even a couple days afterward from breathing it all in.

     


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