I'm one of those pesky "sensitive groups."
November 11, 2018 11:35 AM   Subscribe

I live in San Francisco. What else can this asthmatic do with unhealthy air quality from the Camp Fire?

I'm really struggling with the unhealthy air these past few days. I'm taking all of my meds, my albuterol inhaler is attached to my hand, and we have two air purifiers running 24/7. Despite not having left the house since Friday afternoon, I'm constantly coughing and I have headaches. Is there anything else I can do to make this better?
posted by so much modern time to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: overuse of the albuterol inhaler can make you feel worse bc it's harsh on your already inflamed insides, you might do better with a steroid inhaler to reduce the inflammation. i learned this the hard way after a house fire; that once a day purple steroid inhaler thingy (advair?) helped me A LOT in the month afterwards. can you call your doctor and ask about a prescription?

otherwise you might get some relief from using a n95 particulate respirator mask, which is a thicker and more fancy version of the basic standard hospital face mask. you can buy a box of 20 on amazon for like $10.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:43 AM on November 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Can you smell smoke inside the apartment? I wonder how well your air purifiers are working. I have one with a sensor that measures PM 2.5, and the air in my apartment is clean (if I open a window, the reading quickly jumps up). You may also be able to put duct tape on gaps in windows, etc, if you think smoke is leaking in.
posted by pinochiette at 11:51 AM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hello from a fellow Bay Area asthmatic. I've made the best situation I can by staying in my actual bedroom as much as possible. It makes a bigger space between the front/back doors (which we do have to open from time to time) and my breathing space. I have one filter running in the living room and one in my bedroom, and I keep the bedroom door closed.

The other thing that's helping a lot is taking OTC allergy meds. It is reducing the inflammation in my throat and nasal passages, which is making it easier to breathe. I'm using Flonase and Zyrtec but YMMV.

Depending on the size of your place and your air purifiers, it sounds like maybe they aren't doing their job or maybe you need more for the amount of air you're trying to move. I changed the air filter in my air purifier to a brand-new one; if yours has been in use a while, either order a new one or vacuum out the one you have.

I would be cautious with the n95 mask. They make me anxious which can trigger my asthma. I only put one on when I was outside dealing with both dust and smoke yesterday to take out the recycling.

Double check that you don't have any vents open anywhere, and if you go in the car, make sure it's set to recirculate rather than to take air from outside.
posted by assenav at 11:56 AM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just so happen to have the German Commission E Monographs checked out from interlibrary loan, and it lists Marshmallow, Mullein, and plantain as [respiratory] anti-irritant herbal remedies.
posted by aniola at 12:16 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: While I'm talking about addressing symptoms, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an anti-inflammatory comparable to Ibuprofen that works magic on my headaches.
posted by aniola at 12:26 PM on November 11, 2018

Can you just take some time off and get the hell out of Dodge for a few days? That would be my first impulse.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:51 PM on November 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

You could leave town, or check into a hotel with central HVAC for a few days while things calm down. Spend time in air conditioned cars with air on recirculate, indoor malls, movie theatres, modern office buildings, etc.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

The thing about particle-filtering masks is that they are only as good as the seal against your face. The cheap disposable kind rarely fit snugly, so most of the air you inhale takes the path of least resistance around the mask, not through the filter. The n95 disposable masks are better than the super-cheap "Dixie cup" masks (which don't do squat for smoke particles), but you really need to mash them against your face to get any benefit.

A better option for some people is a half-mask respirator (for example), which has a molded silicone mask and replaceable filters. The type you find at hardware stores already has the filters you want (n95 or p95 plus activated charcoal). The drawback here is that the silicone mask is made to fit high-bridged noses (basically, white people). If your nose is flatter than a typical white person's nose, you may never get a good seal. (The other thing is that if you walk around in public wearing one of these plus dark sunglasses, you will look like a crazed assassin, but that could be a plus...)
posted by Quietgal at 3:15 PM on November 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Future tense; but the Primatene mist inhaler is on it's way back. If you need one; I've got a cache of a few, MeMail me and I'll snail mail you one of them; NIB even.
Caveat: Might be asked to tithe to the MeFi commfund as a balance to the postage.
posted by Afghan Stan at 6:33 PM on November 11, 2018

I am in the same boat as you. my strategy: fully compliant on all my meds (steroid inhaler, antihistamine tablets), minimize outdoor exposure to the point of considering working remoty instead of commuting when the air is especially bad. spending lots of time in air conditioned places, using AC and recirc on my car, and running a filter at home.

nb if you don't have a filter but do have a box fan, you can get the highest rated 3M filter, duct tape it to your box fan, and have a kick ass filter solution today for a grand total of $15.
posted by zippy at 8:08 PM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're actually having asthma symptoms I would see if your healthcare provider wants to prescribe a steroid inhaler, as mentioned above. They may not even need an office visit, if you have a doc that you can get a message to by phone or email.

But yeah, a fabric/reusable 9N5 mask that seals well or a respirator from the hardware store, and just hanging out in the house is a good call. If you're totally stuck inside I'd recommend doing some kind of physical activity like stretching or yoga. Being totally inactive is not good for anybody so finding something that doesn't increase your respiratory effort would be good.

It sucks, I can only imagine what it's like for folks living in Chico or Oroville.
posted by latkes at 8:38 AM on November 12, 2018

Response by poster: Hi everyone, thank you for your good advice. I stopped taking so many albuterol puffs, got myself some turmeric tea and went to the mall for a while (Target has great air, btw). All good until last night, when I was coughing so much that I just couldn't sleep despite having taken my asthma meds (Dulera and generic Flonase) as well as Benadryl. In the end I went to urgent care today, where I was treated for bronchitis, had a large dose of medications by nebulizer and prescribed antibiotics and cough suppressant (Tessalon).
posted by so much modern time at 5:57 PM on November 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

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