Doctors answer your most pressing air quality questions

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Saturday, November 17, 2018
Doctors answer your most pressing air quality questions
Wearing a mask may help but we wanted to know more. So we sat down with an expert to get some questions answered.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Over the course of Dr. Robert David Tufft's career, he estimates he's treated at least 1,000 firefighters who've suffered from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.

"The greatest risk is for those who have been trapped at a home and exposed in a closed space. Those patients frequently have severe carbon monoxide levels."

While he says there is carbon monoxide in our atmosphere right now because of the Camp Fire, a hyperbaric chamber like the ones at his facility in Walnut Creek, Hyperbaric Medicine & Wound Care aren't necessary for most.

RELATED: California Wildfires: Check current Bay Area air quality levels

"People with increased cardiac problems and neurological conditions, like severe headache and severe fatigue and those who feel very sleepy." Says Dr. Tufft.

To answer some questions on what most of us not directly affected by the fire's smoke should do, we visited Dr. Ian Tong who was at his home in Walnut Creek. Even he didn't want to go outside to commute to work.

"I have never seen anything like this and I myself do not have any respiratory issues but I had shortness of breath and I have a sore throat and a cough." Says Tong, sitting at his kitchen counter with his children and wife nearby.

The kids are staying home today because their schools are closed because of poor air quality.

We sat down for a Facebook Live to answer your air quality questions. One: who should be concerned about air quality the most?

Dr. Tong says children and the elderly.

"In addition, individuals who have respiratory conditions should be really careful because it could trigger asthma."

In fact, there are times when those without asthma need to use an inhaler.

"They're borrowing their family member's with inhalers and are doing everything they can."

Many of you asked about how the body reacts to smoke by coughing, sneezing and runny noses. All good things, in a way. It's the body's way of getting particulate matter out.

"Your body will make you not want to take a deep breath...cells are gobbling up this gunk that's gathering at the bottom of your lungs to make sure it's clear and digested."

Prevention is also key: using the right kind of mask rated "N95" and wearing it properly.

RELATED: Unhealthy air from Camp Fire continues to blanket Bay Area

"The correct way is to pinch the metal part over your nose so you can create suction to make sure it's working. When it sucks in, when you feel that suction and pressing against your face you know you're wearing it correctly."

The good news: the effects of all this smoke the body can recover eventually.

"It can but it does take time. It's not like as in the next day with the smoke you'll be back to normal. Your body's immune system has to fight this off."

Dr. Tong is one of the doctors on the service Doctor On Demand, which offers 24/7 medical assistance via a phone or computer. They're offering to take questions about respiratory/fire-related health for free at using the code CA18 until November 30th.

To learn more about the benefits of hyperbaric chambers and healing, you can visit Dr. Tufft's website: