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Allergist at Nebraska Medicine says poor air quality this year rough for patients

Chief Meteorologist Mark Stitz explains ozone levels, which are worse this year
Posted at 7:02 PM, Jun 16, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Does it seem like we're talking more about air quality these days? In roughly the last month, Omaha's only been in the “green” for air quality for two days. For the third day in a row on Friday, Douglas County Health Department warned about ozone levels.

Anchor Mary Nelson talked with Dr. Jill Poole about the problem on Friday. She’s an allergist and immunologist at Nebraska Medicine.

MARY NELSON: Is there a compounding effect where people who are in these high-risk groups, day after day, start to have a different experience; they have different symptoms because it's adding up, or does it not work that way?”

DR. JILL POOLE: I mean, no. there is a priming effect. We see a priming effect with inflammation in the lungs, particularly in allergic diseases. Notably, that, as the pollen seasons worsen — or, continue, I should say — the symptoms keep escalating up as the year goes on. It primes the system. And then, these air pollutants add another complexity to it because they, in and of themselves, can make the exposure to allergens worse. But they can also prime the body to be more susceptible to the inflammatory effects. So, yes, it's been a really rough couple of months now for our patients.

MARY NELSON: If you are affected by air quality, do you already know that?

DR. JILL POOLE: Well, I don't think everybody knows. We've had a lot of new patients who have never had symptoms before who have really been calling in this year. This has been a really tough season and so, I'm seeing it across the board, from the very young to very old who are calling in for the first time having the worst seasons they've had and want to know why.

Poole explained that there's no way to say upfront whether or not the way you're feeling is because of air quality. Although, a dry cough is one sign.

Her key message: take your medicine as prescribed and intended. Keep in mind that it can take a few days after starting a medicine for it to get into your system and work.

She also shared that it's been such an unusual year for air quality overall. UNMC is pre-emptively studying what's going on in Nebraska and Omaha specifically, to better help patients next year.

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