Doctors warn poor air quality can cause external, internal health problems

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – It’s not just respiratory problems that the poor air quality can cause.

Doctors warn, the issues can be internal, along with external.     

Many times we think of the damage that air pollution can do internally to our lungs, and other organs, but for people suffering from skin conditions, and other external issues, the pollutants and particles can cause painful skin irritations.

A dangerous double threat, now blanketing the skies across the Bay Area. 

As smoke and ash from wildfires to the north and south create an ominous scene, it’s also triggering health problems for many. 

“As the particulate matter gets bad, really anyone can really suffer from some of issues, like shortness of breath even if you are healthy,” Dr. Stephanie Christenson said

Dr. Stephanie Christenson is a pulmonologist at the University of California San Francisco.

She says while many could be caught off guard with smells, it’s what you can’t see that is the biggest risk — Particulate matter, tiny particles in the air that can get inside your body causing a number of issues internally. 

“People who are affected the most are people with respiratory issues like asthma, or COPD or lung fibrosis. Although, older people and younger people, and children, are affected, along with pregnant women and adults,” Christenson said. “How bad the particulate matter is that day to really tell you how much you should limit your activity because it may smell really bad.”

The potential impact isn’t just limited internally.               

“A lot of that pollution contains a lot of chemicals, nitrous dioxide. Those are things that can really damage the skin, and also a lot of inflammation,” Dr. Devika Icecreamwalla said.

Dr. Devika Icecreamwalla is a Berkeley dermatologist and says the current elements can also do a number on the skin.

She says the conditions can make things worse for those suffering from acme, eczema, psoriasis and other painful skin conditions. 

“And so much of the flareups and so much of these conditions are contributed by the environment, we’ve noticed that people with eczema and psoriasis flare up in the heat or they flare up in cold climates. Everyone skin is a little bit different… now that you have this extra element of bad air quality of pollution that’s affecting all of our organs in different, it’s going to cause the flareups to happen a lot quicker,” Icecreamwalla said.

With the air quality levels expected to be horrible until the weekend, both doctors warn people to stay out of the elements as much as possible.

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