Publication Date July 26, 2016

Doctors report uptick in patients due to Soberanes Fire haze

United States
The smoke from the Soberanes Fire burning in Monterey County is drifting northward and has created a blanket of haze over San Jose and the greater South Bay. Photo: KGO-TV

The smoke from the Soberanes Fire burning in Monterey County is drifting northward and has created a blanket of haze over San Jose and the greater South Bay.

The haze that has created a blanket over the South Bay is a big concern to doctors, who report an increase in the number of patients complaining of irritated eyes and airways.

Katharine Nelson, M.D., an asthma specialist at the South Bay Allergy and Asthma group in Los Gatos, explains how the particulate matter is compromising our lungs. "These are the small areas of the lungs, and the particulate matter can actually get down into the small airways of the lung and can cause asthma, mucous overproduction, wheezing, and can even cause decreased oxygenation to the blood," she said.

That is a particular concern for patients with asthma or COPD, doctors say. They will need to avoid the smoke, according to James Wolfe, M.D., a clinical professor at Stanford with a private practice in San Jose. "They may have to stay in the house, close the windows, use air conditioning that recirculates if they have that opportunity within the house, and when they drive in the car, roll up the windows," he said.
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The American Lung Association of California says air quality has improved, but the wild card is the smoke generated by wild fires and that's a long-term concern. "The larger implications of having climate change and drought and record heat waves, that's going to lead to more and more wildfires, which is really going to have this longer term impact on peoples' health," American Lung Association of California spokesperson Vanessa Marvin said.

The Bay Area's hills and mountains also appear to be aggravating the situation, trapping the haze and now allowing it to dissipate