North Georgia wildfire prompting health concerns

- Just because folks are getting used to the hazy skies and smoke-tainted air in metro Atlanta, doesn't mean it's any easier to handle the impact of wildfires burning more than 100 miles away in the North Georgia mountains.

“This is the first time we've had forest fires that led to all this smoke being up in the atmosphere and effecting all of us,” said Dr. Paul Rabinowitz of Allergy and Asthma Consultants.

Dr. Rabinowitz told FOX 5’s Portia Bruner he has seen a significant increase in patients with smoke related respiratory complaints, especially at his office in Roswell and the one further north in Cumming.

“This is like somebody sitting there and smoking and blowing smoke into your face. Patients are coming in coughing, wheezing and having asthma exacerbations,” Rabinowitz said.

Melanie Levergood of Alpharetta took in her 9-year-old son James for routine allergy shots, but said she’s keeping an eye on his asthma to ensure his symptoms don’t flare up in the hazy conditions.

“With all the smoke this past week, we’ve been very mindful about keeping them inside more. They are going a bit stir crazy, but we think it’s best to keep them indoors,” she said the mother of seven children.

“It’s hard. It smells funny and it’s a little bit harder for them to breath, so there’s more coughing than usual,” Dr. Rabinowitz said smoke isn’t the only pollutant causing respiratory problems.

“On top of the problem with the smoke, the pollen hasn’t cleared out yet. The ragweed usually goes away after the first freeze but that hasn’t happened yet. Or, it clears out after a good rain, but it hasn’t rained yet since we’re still in a drought. I have never seen anything like this in the 30 years that I have been practicing in Atlanta,” said the doctor.

Dr. Rabinowitz said people can minimize the effect of the smoke when driving by using recirculated air instead of fresh air on the air conditioner. He also said it's important allergy and asthma suffers keeps their medications updated and their inhalers close by since they'll be relying on those items more often as the wildfires continue to burn.

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