October 23rd – We treat extreme weather events seriously in the moment, but the residual effects of those events are often neglected. We focus on the loss of life and loss of property and well we should, but there are additional impacts that are often neglected as the event becomes a distant memory to the public. Victims of Hurricane Harvey are returning to mold-infested homes that are hazardous for people with respiratory conditions. Children with asthma are especially vulnerable.
In the case of the wildfires of Napa Valley recently, or the Pacific Northwest this past summer, the focused attention is on those whose lives and houses are threatened, but the residual impact of wildfire smoke can be felt hundreds of miles away as prevailing winds carry this smoke with hazardous particulates towards unsuspecting patients with respiratory conditions. In these cases, we need to do a better job of not just preparedness and emergency response, but identifying and dealing with these residual impacts for all communities and individuals impacted.
Extreme weather events capture our attention, but the weather and the environment are impacting us every day. In the case of allergy and asthma, every day in America, there are 30,000 asthma attacks, that lead to 5,000 ER visits, that lead to 1000 inpatient hospitals stays, and 11 people die from an asthma attack. We must become more aware of these impacts, not just when extreme weather events occur, but every day. We must understand that triggers are exposure-based and characterized by time, location, and conditions; both weather and environmental.
This intersection of weather/environment and health is also personal in nature. Just as in genomics, there is a precision to each person’s susceptibility to weather and environmental exposures. Your triggers are unique to you. Unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know because, so few understand even what exposures are possible triggers for them.
In the case of a pollen or mold allergy if 60% of all those with allergies have not had allergy testing to determine their allergens, how could they possible know when they venture into a household with mold that they would have a problem. Or if you are exposed to ragweed and you had never experienced an attack before, but the high pollen presence and dispersion of pollen spores accelerated an attack.
Ultimately understanding our vulnerability to exposures is the key gap. We cannot manage what we cannot measure. Through flare-up tracking, we can measure exposures every day and those a result of extreme weather events, so that we are health prepared.
Authored by Eric Klos, CEO, HEALTHeWeather, and innovator of DailyBreath, a service delivered via a mobile app that provides a daily personalized health weather forecast and dynamic flare-up tracking for allergy and asthma sufferers. DailyBreath is a project in the AMIA Pitch IT Competition. Please like or follow to support the project.
If you suffer from allergies or asthma, or are a caregiver of one who does, please TEXT ‘DBnow’ to 41411 to download DailyBreath from the Apple iTunes App store. If you are an Android user, sign up here to receive the Android version when it becomes available in the future.