Air Quality causing health issues in Upstate

Wildfire burns in Western North Carolina
Wildfire burns in Western North Carolina

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Smoke from wildfires has hazed the sky in the Upstate, Western North Carolina, and northern Georgia.

The smoke is so bad that the Department of Health and Environmental Control issued an air quality alert.

Ginger bishop lives in Anderson County, and the smoke from the fire has been causing her problems.

“Basically just really itchy, watery red eyes,” Bishop said.

She’s not alone. Doctors’ waiting rooms were packed across the Upstate.

Dr. Emmanuel Sarmiento, a Greenville allergist, said he had about a quarter more patients than usual. He said the best advice he has is for people to stay indoors, and if they already have respiratory issues to continue taking their medicine.

“Older people with lung disease and heart diseases, COPD, Emphysema, asthma and the young children,” Sarmiento said.

The fine particles in the concentrated smoke plumes are creating unhealthy breathing conditions. Sarmiento said even wearing masks won’t help because those are made to keep larger particles out; however, the smoke particles are just too small.

“Microscopic, so if you smell it, it’s there, and that could irritate the lining of your respiratory passages,” Sarmiento said.

Schools are even taking precaution. Greenville County Schools system released this statement:

Principals have been advised that students who are known to have asthma or breathing conditions or students who express discomfort being outside should be allowed to remain indoors. Additionally, parent requests  that their children be excused from going outside for recess should be honored.  The same standards should be applied for athletes during outdoor practices this afternoon.

 Greenville County is 800 square miles and the conditions vary based on geography.  At least one school in Northern Greenville County has cancelled recess and outdoor activities today because of thick haze and poor air quality.

We will continue to monitor information from SC DHEC and the National Weather Service.

Sarmiento also recommends circulating the air conditioner in your car and using air filters in your home. He said symptoms may last a couple days or weeks, but it’s only short term.

“It’s not a constant exposure like cigarette smoke that will have a long term effect,” Sarmiento said.

The air quality alert for all of the Upstate has been issued until midnight Tuesday.

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