California's Drought Worsens Health For Those With Asthma, Heart Ailments

Experts say those with asthma, lung and heart ailments are more susceptible because of poor air conditions due to drought.

This Drought Monitor map shows the "extreme" drought that California is experiencing as of January 14, 2014. Over 60 percent of California has lower than normal water supplies.

The Center For Disease Control (CDC) say these drought conditions that cause dry soil and wildfires raise the level of smoke and pollen. There is also smoke from chimneys that can be an irritant. These all increase asthma and other similar illnesses because they are irritants. Respiratory infections are more likely and raise the risk of bacterial pneumonia.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says these particulates in the air can cause:

increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing;

decreased lung function;

aggravate asthma;

irregular heartbeat;

nonfatal heart attacks;

decreased lung function;

and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

Because of the drought there is also risk that water levels can become compromised due to water supplies not being refreshed. This in turn can make animals sick and contaminating the food supply. Playing in the water can lead to illness by being exposed to cyanobacteria which can be found in fresh, brackish and marine water.

The cyanobacteria can produce some of the strongest natural poisons know and that have no antidote. They can make people and animals sick. The first sign is usually is a sick dog that has been swimming in an algae-filled pool. droughts can increase the chances of contracting diseases transmitted by mosquitos including West Nile Virus, Encephalitis and Hantavirus. 

How to protect yourself

If you have asthma, follow your asthma regimen.

Walk instead of jog, don't exercise near busy roads. Delay outdoor activity when air quality has improved.

Look for heart attack symptoms such as palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain.

Taking precautionary steps can help you breath easier until the drought is over.


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