Cardiovascular health a concern with the poor air quality

FILE--In this Aug. 3, 2017, file photo, cyclists peddle in view of downtown Seattle, cloaked in a haze of smoke from fires raging in British Columbia that swept down into the Puget Sound region. Seattle, like many cities in the Northwest, has been plagued by hazardous smoke from wildfires. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

EUGENE, Ore. - Over the past month, the Emergency Department at PeaceHealth Riverbend saw 150 patients with respiratory issues, which is three times the number that they usually see.

The increase is not just from patients with preexisting problems, but from younger, generally healthier patients who are also having trouble breathing from the smoke.

Health experts say that at this point, there is no way to avoid the exposure to smoke particles in our atmosphere.

The Eugene Urgent Care is also seeing an influx of patients, some of whom are also suffering from eye and skin irritation, but mostly due to lung problems from those small smoke particulates.

"The longer you're out in it, the more smoke you're going to get into your lungs and the bigger issue it's going to cause you," said Brandon Francis, an ER nurse at Riverbend. "The recommendation would just be to stay inside as much as possible so you have the least amount of exposure to it."

However, if staying inside is not an option, there are certain masks that can help filter out the air that you breathe.

"We stock in each of our clinics 20 or 30 of these," said Mitch Boriskin, with Eugene Urgent Care. " We don't stock very many because we use these when a patient with a really contagious disease comes in."

The N95 and N100 masks can block out small particulates like the smoke, and they are much more effective than regular filters.

Hardware stores and health offices usually have those N95 and N100 masks, but Boriskin says a lot of them have already sold out.

He expects the Eugene Urgent Cares to have a new shipment of masks within a few days for anyone who needs them.

Doctors say that the masks are more important for people with sensitivities or anyone who will be outside for a long period of time.

If you're experiencing rapid breathing or having trouble getting a deep breath in, that's when it's time to go to the emergency room.

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