Haze from western wildfires could have health impact in Southwest Virginia

Experts say those who have heart or lung conditions should stay indoors

ROANOKE, Va – While the haze from the Oregon wildfires may make for beautiful pictures here in Southwest Virginia, local health experts are concerned about its impacts on those with underlying health conditions.

Most of the counties and cities in the southern part of our viewing area are still under an air quality alert. Health experts at LewisGale Medical Center say the low air quality could make it hard for those with heart and lung conditions to breathe.

“The pollutants stay on the small cells of the lungs. So then, the air exchange cannot happen smoothly, whereas a person with cleaner lungs or healthy lungs, the air exchange is happening sort of effortlessly,” said Medical Director of Emergency Services Dr. Puneet Chopra.

The air pollution could also impact those recovering from COVID-19.

“COVID is a great example where the lung still hasn’t fully recovered. It might have some, you know, residual impact from that disease from COVID, and that can make the lung just more susceptible,” Chopra said.

Glen Davis was one of many out on the Huckleberry Trail Thursday. He has chronic bronchitis but said wearing a mask makes a big difference.

“Well, yesterday, I really noticed that I was having trouble getting air in well. I was getting enough air and I wasn’t getting oxygenated, so I had related that to the smoke until I saw the paper today,” Glen Davis said.

But still, health officials say the best thing to do until the haze leaves our region is to stay inside and use an air filter.

If you have had to be outside in recent days, doctors recommend exercising to help clear the air in your lungs from the pollutants.

About the Author:

Annie Schroeder joined the 10 News team as a reporter in June 2020 and is no stranger to Southwest Virginia.