This morning the temperatures were down in Arizona for the first time all fall. We opened all the windows and we were enjoying the fresh air. We put the rabbits outside to play, and Lexi went out to enjoy the cooler morning. We did what probably a thousand other people in Arizona did this morning, but for us it was a terrible mistake. Lexi quickly took a turn for the worse. Coughing and difficulty breathing, inhalers in hand, tightness in her chest. So what was our mistake?
Poor air quality can result in eye and throat irritation, coughing or difficulty breathing, and aggravated asthma. Frequent and excessive exposure can result in serious health effects. Exposure can result in aggravated respiratory diseases, headaches, and chest pain.
AQI 654 Hazardous Particulate Matter 131 Unhealthy Ground Level Ozone 45 Fair
We didn’t check the air quality. Fifteen minutes outside and an hour with the windows open and Lexi was sick all day. She struggled until about 1pm and finally fell asleep. Only to have to be awaken at 3 for her math teacher to come for school. She sucked it up and did what she had to, and her teacher said she was engaged and asked questions. But she was sick, we saw it and her teacher saw it, and she was asleep before the teacher had even walked out the front door. Thank goodness for homebound school.
Air quality can be bad for numerous reasons. Pollution in the air, forest fires, in our case a little wind and the dust of the desert. For patients with Cystic Fibrosis poor air quality is associated with higher rates of distress and lung infections. Lexi has always had poorer health in the winter. Cooler temperatures, fluctuations in temperatures, and more frequent weather events make for a rough winter each year. Cystic Fibrosis patients in areas with poor air quality have a high risk of Staphylococcus Aureus, more commonly known as MRSA. Exposure to high rates of pollution have been shown to increase MRSA rates in CF patients from 9% to 27%. Lexi’s last lung cultures were in March, and they were clear. However, in the 9 months prior to that she repeatedly had some type of ongoing lung infection. Due to COVID we have been unable to go to the hospital for updated cultures. These chronic infections lead to permanent decreases in lung function, and overtime can lead to the need for lung transplants. Lexi’s “healthy” lung function is at about 80% and when she is sick it falls to around 60%.
Asthma is a more common lung disease. It is rare for an individual to have both cystic fibrosis and asthma, as Lexi does, but asthma alone is found much more frequently in individuals. Much like cystic fibrosis, air pollution is extremely disruptive to individuals with asthma. In fact asthma patients are proven to have even greater episodes of distress during high pollution periods. A study of campers showed that those with asthma had a 40% higher rate of distress when there was high pollution. We took Lexi camping this summer, and unknowingly were camping next to a controlled burn. That forced Lexi inside for much of our long weekend, showing the link between lung distress and poor air quality.
Think about not being able to breathe. Can you imagine what that would feel like? I can not. Sometimes I think about my worst respiratory infection, and what it would be like to live with that or worse everyday. It’s the reason why Lexi wore masks before any of us ever heard of COVID. I never intended to write about COVID, but as I typed this it kept coming into my mind. There are so many people in the world that suffer from lung disease, or another condition that makes them sensitive to COVID. These people can not do anything about the quality of air in their city, if they get cancer, or were born with type 1 diabetes. There lives are controlled in many ways by their illness. Maybe you know one of these people. That is why it is hard for me to imagine how ignorant people can be when they fight being “controlled” by wearing a mask. Isn’t it just common courtesy? You wear a seat belt so that you don’t fly out of a window. You use your turn signal so people know your intentions and it keeps you and them safe. You don’t argue when you have to wear shoes into McDonalds, because no one wants someone else’s foot fungus. But a simple little mask to go to the grocery store is a violation of your civil liberties. Well if that is the case so is wearing pants, but no one seems to complain about that. It makes me mad. Seeing my daughter suffer gets me even madder when I see people do or say insensitive things. As COVID rises, and people become more bitter, I’m afraid that I’ll just be mad all winter. Why do I type this? I hope that if you complain about masks, and you say you care about Lexi, that you might feel guilty next time you whine and complain. Yes, I want people to feel bad, and that’s ok because I’m the mom of a kid with lung disease and it sucks. That is what isn’t fair. Her quality of life isn’t fair. Not that someone asked you to wear a mask on your face. I’m sorry if I don’t feel one bit sorry for you. I’m sorry that I’m turning off the comments to this post, because I don’t want to argue about masks. It’s my blog, and not wearing a mask makes me mad. I’m not sorry if I made you mad. I do hope I made you think.