What’s Going Around: Hospitals, doctors’ report increase in patients suffering breathing problems from air quality

This week most Metro Detroit hospitals and doctors' offices are reporting an increase in patients suffering from breathing problems due to the smoke and poor air quality. It comes at a time when asthma and COPD flare-ups were already an issue.

Here’s our weekly round-up of what illnesses are spreading the most in Metro Detroit communities, according to our local doctors and hospitals.

Wayne County -- Breathing problems, eye irritation, pink eye, strep throat, headaches, dehydration

Dr. Glen Clark -- Emergency Center Chief, Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe

“In the last week, we have seen a significant increase in respiratory complaints. We’ve seen both asthma and COPD patients, who have been well controlled, presenting with exacerbations requiring an increase in updrafts and steroids. Even otherwise healthy individuals have come in complaining of chest tightness.”

Dr. Kevin Dazy -- Children’s Hospital of Michigan pediatrician

Illness-wise, we’re seeing a slight increase in asthma, that could be related to the smoke. This is a busy time of year for kids with breathing issues to begin with. Also, we’re still seeing a decent number of kids with strep throat coming in, and other typical illnesses.   With the 4th of July and summer vacations, folks need to be careful around campfires and any outdoor fires. Kids will think the fire’s out, but it’s not. Those coals stay hot for so long. Or kids pick up the hot coals when they’re blackened, but they’re still incinerating hot. Or they pick up the rocks and the stones near the fire pit, not realizing they are hot, too. And the utensils – sticks or metal roasters for marshmallows -- kids get burned or poked with those.  Also, we always need to make sure to wear helmets when riding bikes, ATVs, scooters or other fun things. We all know that accidents can happen in a flash, and head injuries can have life-long effects. We don’t want people to not enjoy life – just do it safely. You need to think ahead to avoid or decrease the risk preventable injuries.  And if you’re around water, please do it safely. Watch kids at all times, especially around pools – it’s a leading cause of death for young children. Be aware of currents and warnings if you’re swimming in the Great Lakes, which can be unforgiving, even to good swimmers.”

Dr. Christopher Loewe -- Emergency Medicine, Ascension St. John Hospital

“I’m seeing a lot of patients with eye irritation and pink eye. Symptoms of pink eye can vary but typically include redness or swelling of the white of the eye. I’m also seeing patients with breathing problems from the poor air quality from the fires in Canada. I want to remind people it’s best to avoid strenuous activity when air quality levels are unsafe outside and to stay indoors as much as possible. Also it’s helpful to use air purifiers to help the air quality inside.”

Dr. Joseph Schramski -- Emergency medicine physician, Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn

“We had three kids all get bit by dogs in one day, all unrelated incidents. Parents, please continue to be aware of your child’s surroundings. It’s important to note that dog bites are very prone to infection. Even small ones need to be washed out thoroughly.”

Dr. Jennifer Stevenson -- Emergency Department, Henry Ford Medical Center Fairlane

“There have been more respiratory issues since these fires began; these past couple days have been worse.  Those with respiratory problems really need to stay in with the windows closed! Can’t stress the importance of responsible handling of explosives this weekend as well as mindfulness regarding alcohol consumption and activities such as lighting fireworks, grilling, driving, swimming, etc.  Fingers crossed for a safe and relaxing 4th of July holiday! "

Dr. Jaime Hope -- Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at Beaumont Outpatient Campus – Livonia

“We are seeing an increase in ER visits and hospitalizations for air-quality related illnesses. The levels have fluctuated between being unhealthy for sensitive and vulnerable patients to being unhealthy and potentially dangerous to everyone, regardless of health status. The increased particulate matter in the air affects the respiratory system. Patients are more likely to have sneezing, coughing and respiratory troubles. The poor air quality can make it harder to breathe, trigger an asthma or emphysema attack or allergies. Difficulty breathing can also cause increased strain for patients with cardiovascular disease. It is important to pay attention to air quality alerts and warnings and limit outdoor activities as much as possible when alert levels are elevated. If you experience trouble breathing, contact your doctor or go to your nearest Emergency Department. Urgent Cares are great for minor illnesses and injuries, but might not be equipped to handle respiratory and cardiac emergencies, that is why an Emergency Department is the safest option.”

Oakland County -- Breathing problems, stomach viruses, Covid, poison ivy, colds, hand, foot, and mouth disease

Dr. Steve McGraw -- Chair of Emergency Medicine, Ascension Providence Hospital, Southfield

“I’m seeing the usual summer injuries which are motorcycle injuries, bicycle injuries and people are starting to come in with bee stings. The air quality is hurting some with severe lung disease. Anyone who is struggling should stay indoors when the air causes discomfort. Also, a quick reminder for everyone to be careful with fireworks and make sure you’re wearing sunscreen.”

Dr. Rena Daiza -- Primary Care Physician, Henry Ford Medical Center Bloomfield Twp.

“I have seen an increase in Covid this week. Mostly mild cases, but it is still out there. People should continue to test at home when sick or come in for PCR testing.”

Dr. David Donaldson -- Emergency Center chief, Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital, Troy

“We are seeing an increase in respiratory complaints, but primarily with patients with preexisting diseases like asthma and COPD.”

Dr. Whitney Minnock -- Chief of Pediatrics, Emergency Center, Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak

“We are seeing mostly gastroenteritis (GI bugs), respiratory viruses and some hand, foot and mouth disease. Lately, allergies/asthma have been bad because of the weather as well.”

Emergency Department at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital

“We are seeing an increase of breathing issues.  Seeing falls as well.  Increase in abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting.”

Caroline Morris, NP -- Henry Ford-GoHealth Urgent Care Berkley

“A lot of people are coming in with sore throats, congestion, and cough, which may be related to the smoke and poor air quality. Usually in times like this I see a lot more acute asthma exacerbations or even an increase in patients’ anxiety.”

Washtenaw County -- Breathing problems, stomach viruses, fever-causing illnesses

Dr. Marisa Louie -- Medical Director of Children’s Emergency Services, Michigan Medicine

“Lots of injuries like burns, fractures and lacerations as well as continued febrile illnesses lately. With fireworks picking up in anticipation of the holiday, it would be a great time to remind families about safety. Generally, we recommend not doing fireworks on your own. Go to a professionally managed show instead. Even sparklers, which are often regarded as being safe, cause plenty of injuries. Older children in the tween-teen age groups are the most commonly injured. In addition to burns that occur from holding the sparklers or being too close to a firework, we also see severe injuries that come from fireworks being aimed at people and people who pick up a firework that has not gone off, only to have it then go off in their hands.”

Dr. Brad Uren -- Clinical Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Michigan Medicine

“Echo the comments about the fireworks.  I have not seen any fireworks injuries yet this season, but the season is just getting started. Less GI illness this week, but still seeing some. A stable amount of URIs, mostly non COVID this week. Seeing a few people with asthma/COPD or other underlying lung problems with difficulty breathing that may relate to the air quality.  Not a large volume of patients that are seeking ED care, however.”

MONROE COUNTY -- Breathing problems, stomach viruses, colds, poison ivy

Macomb County -- Breathing problems, viral infection, sinus infections, ear infections

Dr. Joseph Carlier -- Emergency physician, McLaren Macomb

“Household accident and activity-related orthopedic and soft tissue injuries continue to be the most common reason patients are seeking care in the emergency and trauma center. Allergens have led to allergy and asthma exacerbation and symptoms mirroring upper respiratory infections, including congestion, sore throat, runny nose, and wheezy breathing. Testing negative for COVID and influenza, a viral infection has been causing symptoms of upper respiratory infection, including fever, cough, congestion, and runny nose.”

Dr. Dhairya Kiri -- Primary Care Physician, Henry Ford Medical Center Richmond

“We have seen some patients coming in with symptoms of nasal and sinus irritation and drainage. We have also seen a mild increase in patients with exacerbation of their COPD and Asthma due to the smoke and humidity.”

Dr. Maria Samuel -- Primary Care Physician, Henry Ford Medical Center Sterling Heights

“I’m seeing patients with asthma flare ups, shortness of breath and allergies. To prevent exacerbation from the poor air quality stay inside; limit and avoid outdoor activities; keep your doors and windows closed; use the recirculate option on your car’s air conditioner; and wear a mask outside.”

Livingston County -- Did not report this week

About the Authors:

Devin Scillian is equally at home on your television, on your bookshelf, and on your stereo. Devin anchors the evening newscasts for Local 4. Additionally, he moderates Flashpoint, Local 4's Sunday morning news program. He is also a best-selling author of children's books, and an award-winning musician and songwriter.