Smoke inhalation symptoms and how to treat them

SPOKANE, Wash. — We’ve been seeing it, smelling it and breathing it all week.

And while the smoke seems to be making it’s way out of the area, the effects on our health might still linger until it’s gone completely.

4 News Now spoke with a local health expert at Providence to find out why the smoke is affecting us this way.

“You’re not just breathing the different gasses normally associated in air, you’re inhaling all those both fine and large particles,” said Chief Medical Officer at Providence Dr. Dan Getz, DO.

Here are just some of the symptoms you may be experiencing — coughing, congestion, runny nose, stinging eyes, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses and more.

For those with asthma or COPD, wheezing, shortness of breath and even asthma attacks are possible.

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Dr. Getz says if you have respiratory issues, you should see a doctor if your symptoms are getting serious.

“I’m always very cautious as a physician trained in emergency medicine, if anybody’s experiencing chest pain, I don’t just want to say that’s related to the smoke in the air,” he said. “I’d really like you to be seen by a physician and make sure it’s not a sign of something more worrisome.”

Stay inside as much as possible, filter your air if you can and if you have to go out, wear an N-95 mask.

But when you’re inside, you still have to live with those nagging symptoms.

“Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants actually work pretty well, assuming you don’t have any contraindications to taking those medications,” said Getz.

In addition to those over-the-counter medications, you can soothe your symptoms with cough drops or some tea with lemon.

Dr. Getz says those experiencing any smoke symptoms should feel better within the week and as the smoke starts to clear.

As long as we’re in any range that indicates ‘unhealthy’ air, you’re going to want to take it easy.

“Still not time to go for that walk on the Centennial Trail,” he said. “Probably want to get back to that ‘Moderate’. And even if it’s moderate, you don’t want to be out for significant periods of time. You want to get back to that ‘Good’ level, which is that safe level.”

In the meantime, stay inside, drink lots of water and your symptoms should clear up as the smoke clears out.

“Just make sure you take care of yourself,” said Getz. “That hour that you might spend out walking you might regret a couple hours later. So we should hopefully be through this in the next week, we’re seeing progressive improvements in our air quality. And once that air index is safe to go out, go out and enjoy the outdoors.”