Inversion DecemberDec 31, 2013
Coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, congestion, and watery eyes – it must be inversion season. Emergency room physician Dr. Troy Madsen talks about inversion threats to your health, who’s at risk, and what you can do about it.
Host: It seems like air quality and inversions always an issue here in the Salt Lake Valley in the wintertime, although it feels like its hit us earlier and maybe even a little harder this year. We'll talk about the inversion, threats to your health and what you can do about it, coming up next on The Scope.
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Host: Oh man, I don't know if you've noticed.
Dr. Troy Madsen: Oh yeah.
Host: I don't know how you could not notice. The air quality, it seems like its all people are talking about.
Dr. Troy Madsen: Yeah.
Host: It's all you can see when you go outside. It seems like it's come a little bit earlier this year, are you seeing any results of the inversion in the emergency room? We're with Dr. Troy Madsen, emergency medicine, University of Utah Hospital. What are you seeing?
Dr. Troy Madsen: Oh we're definitely seeing the results of it and I think you're exactly right, I mean, in my experience it seems like the air quality issue really hits us in January, but this year, you know, first part of December it is really hard. And we're seeing lots of visits in the emergency department from this sort of thing. Just working this past weekend, I saw several patients that were coming in just very tight, wheezing, having a lot of trouble breathing, these were often patients who already had some lung issues but it's hit them pretty hard and they're really feeling the effects of the air.
Host: Generally that's who it affects, right? People that already have an existing issue.
Dr. Troy Madsen: In terms of what we see in the E.R., yes. I think it affects all of us, you know, all of us may have noticed a little bit of tightness, maybe a little congestion, your eyes are a little bit watery, all that is from irritation from the air quality, but the people we really see in the E.R. are those people who already have some lung issues, who it really can overwhelm them, to where they have so much trouble breathing they just can't handle it at home and need some additional help.
Host: So what would you say to those people, that know that they have that issue?
Dr. Troy Madsen: The number one thing is if you're prescribed medications, make sure those medications are full and those are the big issues I see for preventable visits, are those individuals that maybe have an inhaler, like an Albuterol inhaler, something that opens up their lungs, and they just haven't had to use it, you know, air quality has been good this fall. And this just hits them and they're not ready for it and they have to call 9-1-1 to get some treatment and get in the E.R.
The second thing would be if you're prescribed a medication to prevent lung issues make sure you're taking it on a regular basis as prescribed by your doctor. Again, some people kind of back off on that a little, maybe thinking, oh I'm doing okay, I'm not used to this hitting me this time of the year. Make sure you are taking that to potentially prevent some problems.
Host: So generally people at risk know that they're at risk, maybe they just kind of laxed off, but what about generally healthy people, does the inversion affect them beyond what you just kind of said, that you might feel some tightness?
Dr. Troy Madsen: Yeah, you know, and it's hard to say for sure. I think there is a potential for long term effects from the inversion, in terms of years down the road, the air quality and the effects are going to build up in terms of what it's going to do to the lungs. In terms of immediate effects, mostly it's going to be kind of that congestion and watery eyes like I mentioned. If you already have a cold, I think it could make things a bit worse just by leading to some more congestion, potentially backing some things up into the sinuses and maybe leading to a sinus infection along with that. Just making things much more difficult to get through. If you're coughing a lot it's always difficult and when you're breathing in air that not great and that's getting in your lungs and irritating it even more. So all things to be aware of if you're an otherwise healthy person.
Host: And, what about exercising outside. I've seen people running in this, like, running to me in general doesn't sound like fun, this sounds miserable.
Dr. Troy Madsen: Yeah it does, you know and I hate to tell people just don't exercise because you want to exercise. I can't imagine that exercising with the poor air quality is going to be great for the lungs, you're probably still helping the heart out because you're getting it beating, you're keeping up your routine there, so it's kind of a mixed bag. And I think each person has to be a judge, just depending how they feel when they're out running, making sure they're feeling okay while they're doing it.
Host: So at the end of the day do you have any final thoughts? When we get this kind of inversion should we become a hermit in our house, is there anything we can do, what do you think?
Dr. Troy Madsen: You know I think each person has to judge it based on their medical history and then how comfortable they are outside. You know I don't want to become a hermit in this, you don't want to just isolate yourself and try and hide from it. Because it's there, it's been there for years, it's something we deal with quite often, but just determine what your comfort level is, see how you feel if you're out exercising and adjust accordingly.
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