Camp Fire smoke: Doctors say more children with severe symptoms are coming in

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Camp Fire is burning hundreds of miles away, but hospitals in both Madera and Merced are seeing the impact from the smoky air.

Doctors at Mercy Medical in Merced say they've been seeing more people than usual since the fire started.

Doctors say they can't say for sure that smoke is what brought them to the ER, but do say that people are coming in with more severe symptoms possibly due to the air quality.

"We're seeing 10 additional patients in the emergency room with respiratory complaints since the day after the fire, when the smoke came down this way," said Mercy Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Janet Ruscoe.

"I think if you're going to attribute it to a singular cause, the increased smoke in the air from the fire is causative."

Air quality has been at unhealthy levels for about a week.

Valley Air officials state that ongoing smoke continues to impact the Central Valley, and that people with existing respiratory issues, children, and the elderly are the most susceptible to health issues.

The medical director of Valley Children's emergency department says there are kids coming in with more severe symptoms.

"We're seeing normal asthma, pneumonia, but the poor air quality makes things more severe, it exacerbates the symptoms. So that's what we're mainly seeing," said Valley Children's ED Medical Director Geetanjali Srivastava.

Doctors say what's concerning is the impact of this air quality down the road.

"They could be more susceptible because it does affect your immune system, and then you have multiple things against you -- cold weather, flu, as well as other viruses -- and the environmental factors. They're a cumulative effect in making your child ill," Srivastava added.

Doctors say at this point it's still difficult to distinguish what effects are from seasonal changes and what is a result of the air quality.

Either way parents are advised to keep kids indoors and active, especially if they have respiratory issues.

Doctors at Valley Children's say they are hoping for some relief soon with some of that expected rain.

However, they say since the poor air just sits here in the air, the longer you're exposed to that unhealthy air, the more likely it is that you'll feel some of those symptoms.
Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.