Intermountain Doctors Say Bad Air Quality Associated with Spike in Patients

Dec 13, 2013

Air quality along the Wasatch front this week has reached levels above what the federal government deems safe, and doctors at Intermountain Medical Center say they are already hearing a lot of related health complaints from their patients.

Among those seeing a spike in patients is Denitza Blagev, pulmonary and critical care physician at Intermountain Medical Center. Common symptoms include chest tightness, chest burning, and shortness of breath.

“We’re seeing more patients who have symptoms, we’re seeing more people come to urgent care, more people come to clinic with complaints, more people call us with complaints,” Blagev says. “For people who are really sick and coming to the ICU, the air quality seems to be the final straw in addition to viral illnesses, but certainly the air quality is affecting a lot of people.”

Blagev says the people who are most affected by the inversions are people who have heart or lung disease. The very elderly and the very young are also affected disproportionately.  She says in the long term, there is evidence that those who do not fall in these sensitive groups may also be affected.

“There are good studies now that show that people living in areas of air pollution are at a higher risk of dying younger, developing a variety of heart and lung disease,” Glagev says.

Intermountain doctors say the best way to protect yourself during an inversion is to stay inside, and to avoid exercising outdoors. Going to higher elevations if possible can help. For those in sensitive groups, take medications as directed and consult your doctor about an action plan during winter inversion conditions. Doctors are also recommending that the community work together to reduce emissions, by limiting car usage, log burning, and industrial pollution.