MODESTO -- Air quality this week has been reaching unhealthy levels throughout Northern California due to smoke from various wildfires.
"We're starting to see a little bit of an influx in our hospital regarding the air quality impact," said Joe Garcia, a respiratory therapist and director of respiratory services at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
Some patients, such as asthma sufferers, are experiencing symptoms they haven't felt in years, according to Garcia. Those with pre-existing conditions are the most susceptible.
"Whether it be asthma, emphysema, or heart issues," Garcia explained. "That's one area where I would avoid outdoor activity. Avoid all of the stimulants of what the air quality index is showing."
The air quality index is a measure of air pollution related to health, issued by local air quality management districts.
Even people who are otherwise healthy are advised to protect against developing symptoms by avoiding prolonged exposure to smoky air.
"You mow a lawn, you go out for a cycling ride, you run, you'll become a little bit short of breath," Garcia said. "And maybe your endurance is not so up to where it used to be. And maybe your heart rate goes a little higher. These are early signs that something is triggering the body in response to the poor air quality."
Garcia advises those with existing heart and lung issues to make sure their medicines are current. He also encourages people to pay attention to the air quality index in their local area.
More information and links to various air quality management districts can be found at the Spare the Air website.