Health official addresses symptoms from wildfire smoke, COVID-19

The wildfire smoke is causing symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. It’s similar to some of the symptoms people feel when they are sick with COVID-19.

Lauren Jenks with the Washington State Department of Health said if you have symptoms without a fever, chances are it’s the smoke.

“That probably is your body telling you that your body is reacting to the air quality and you need to come inside and reduce your physical activity and try to filter the air in your house as much as you can,” said Jenks who is the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Public Health.

Jenks said if you have any doubt about the cause of your symptoms, don’t hesitate to put a call into your health provider who can guide you onto the next steps including whether or not to get a COVID-19 test.

Dave, a COVID-19 survivor, experienced a very severe case of the disease.

“I couldn’t feel my hands my legs. I was white. I had no strength. I woke up sicker than I have ever been in my entire life. I was so weak I couldn’t get my head up off the bed. I couldn’t lift my arms. I had a raging fever,” said Dave who suffered from the disease since March.

The 41-year-old was in and out of the emergency room for months. He said it was only this past August that he was able to start breathing fully again.

“It took about four to five months for me to start breathing again normal, and I really enjoyed it when it came back,” said Dave. “I think the smoke would be a major annoyance before COVID, but now that I’ve had it, it is extremely difficult.”

Dave has spent most of his time bedridden these past six months. He lost about 30 pounds and is trying to sit up and down as much as he can to build his strength. He hopes to be strong enough to take walks around his neighborhood, but he’ll have to wait until the smoke clears out.

Dave learned he developed dysautonomia due to COVID-19. The medical condition affects how his autonomic nervous system works. For him, it’s impacting his blood vessels.

He said now is not the time for people to put down their guard against the coronavirus, and said wildfire smoke can make us more susceptible to respiratory infections like COVID-19.

“If I didn’t have my girlfriend who is a registered nurse to take care of me, I would’ve died. No doubt about it. No doubt about it at all,” said Dave.

Health professionals say if you ever experience trouble breathing, no matter what the cause, seek medical attention right away and call 911.