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Increased risk for people with health problems from fireworks

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Posted at 2:04 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 18:47:42-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As fireworks usage kicks into high gear, the Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) warns that people with health problems could be at higher risk due to the fog of the 4th...even weeks later.

They say air quality, compromised by fireworks smoke, during the 2-5 may be a problem for those with health concerns.

“High concentrations of fine particles due to fireworks around the Fourth of July holiday are not unusual,” Health Director Dr. Adi Pour said. “Avoiding strenuous outdoor activity will minimize the risk of potential health issues.”

It can cause breathing difficulties for "individuals with asthma and other heart or lung diseases, the elderly, very young children, and for pregnant women."

Symptoms may include:

  • Repeated coughing
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Unusual fatigue or a light-headed feeling

The DHCD says symptoms may occur up to several weeks after exposure and that anyone with worsening symptoms should contact their healthcare providers.

You can monitor air quality at Airnow.gov.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has also issued a release regarding firework smoke:

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) today issued a health

advisory for people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions like COPD, due to anticipated high levels of smoke from fireworks.

In recent years, the LLCHD Air Quality Program has observed high levels of particulate air pollution from the night of July 3 through the morning of July 5, resulting in the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaching unhealthy levels. Fireworks may be used in the City of Lincoln from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 3 and 8 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. July 4.

Gary Bergstrom, Air Quality Program Supervisor with the LLCHD, said that most people will not be affected. Those most at risk are youth, the elderly and those sensitive individuals with respiratory or heart conditions. He said when the tiny particles and gases in smoke from fireworks are breathed into the lungs, it can cause asthma attacks, worsen chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and cause angina (chest pain) in some people with heart disease. People at risk should avoid extensive physical activity outdoors or remain indoors with windows and doors closed. Those who experience health effects should contact a medical care provider.

The LLCHD recommends that at-risk individuals take extra precautions during the peak hours of air pollution, which will likely be July 4 near dusk and through the mid-day on July 5. Bergstrom said that even a few hours of exposure to high levels of particle pollution may affect those with underlying health conditions.

The LLCHD monitors air quality 24 hours a day. The AQI for Lincoln is updated hourly and is available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: air). Residents are encouraged to check the AQI the next few days before doing any strenuous activities outside.

For more information on LLCHD, visit lincoln.ne.gov/health.