AUSTIN (KXAN) - With the smoke from the West Texas wildfires seeping into the Austin area , some Austinites have noticed that the change in the air could be affecting their health as well.
"Been outside most of the day," said Jordan Walker. "Been coughing worse and it's hard to breathe out here."
Walker isn't the only one, Urgent Care clinics are swamped with patients seeking relief with symptoms mimicking allergies. Lakeway Medical in Lakeway has seen a 50% jump in business in the last two days.
"Unfortunately, we have seen a number of patients for bronchitis and it's quite possible the precipitating factor is the smoke and irritation that's in the air," said Dr. Robert O'Brien.
"Certainly can produce asthma or exacerbation of asthma. It's also very irritating to the eyes. More likely to develop a conjunctivitis or what is typically pink eye," he said.
"It's not unusual to have coughing, sneezing and some of the symptoms you typically see with allergies as well," he continued. "It's kind of hard right now because we're also seeing a lot of allergies as well, so unfortunately it's just another thing that's been added to the mix."
Dr. O'Brien compared long-term exposure to intense wildfire smoke to the same health complications as smoking a cigarette.
"The best thing to do is to try to stay indoors. Try to avoid smoke as much as possible. If you have to go outside, perhaps a wet cloth over the mouth, the nose," he said.
But, there's not a massive amount of smoke currently entering the Central Texas area, so many Austinites who already enjoy the outdoors plan to continue their normal routine.
"I'm not going to wear a mask or anything," Walker said. "If that's the case, that's the case, but I don't think I'm going to try and hide from it."
There is no scientific data that currently suggests a direct connection between the wildfire smoke and bronchitis or pink eye, but if you experience any unusual symptoms it's best to contact your physician.
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