Wildfire smoke leading to health concerns for vulnerable, elderly populations

The smoky conditions from the wildfires in Canada have caused concerns for the elderly population.
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 4:00 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The smoky conditions from the wildfires in Canada have caused concerns for the elderly population. It’s not unusual to find Donna Walsh and her friends spending the day at the Raymond A. Jordan Senior Center in Springfield, eating cake and playing dominoes, but for the past few days, they’ve been there for their health.

“I have to stay inside or if I do walk, I do notice, even on a short distance, it affects me,” Walsh said.

Over the past two days, wildfire smoke has forced air quality alerts in the northeast, including western Massachusetts. It has worried vulnerable populations, including senior citizens, with conditions that impact their breathing.

“This is real bad because I have COPD and lung problems,” Walsh noted.

“It will affect my and my husband’s lungs. He has COPD and he cannot be outside now,” said Carmen Oyola.

Pulmonolost Mohammad Abu Hishmeh with Baystate Health told Western Mass News they are taking the right steps.

“Avoidance is better than medicine, so if they don’t need to go outdoors, please stay indoors avoid this bad weather, bad conditions. That would be my first advice…Keep the house environment healthy in a way. Turn on the [air conditioner], the air purifier, humidifier,” Hishmeh explained.

He said to look out for symptoms of respiratory illness, like nose irritation, congestion, sneezing, sore throat, wheezing, and chest pain. In addition, be vigilant about how you feel and stay hydrated.

“Stay healthy, drink water, and mental health. Pay attention to your metal health and the stressful conditions, especially people with the underlying diseases,” Hishmeh noted.

We also asked Baystate Health if there has been an uptick in patients in recent days. We’re told that while they are not seeing an uptick in respiratory illnesses at this time, they will be monitoring the situation with the air quality the worst around last night.