AGUSTIN TABARES / STAR-BULLETIN
Regina Park of Hawaii Pacific Health gave out various handouts during a health care exhibition yesterday at Ala Moana Center Stage.
Some dread New Year’s air
Kailua resident Joey Urquidi was planning to spend New Year's Eve at the windy Pali Lookout, where he could escape the smoke from other people's New Year's firework celebrations.
"I don't have $150 to rent a room just so I can breathe better. I just don't know what to do at this point," said Urquidi, an asthmatic with allergies and a long history of pneumonia. "I feel dizzy and I can't breathe. It's awful. It affects my ability to think."
Urquidi picked up a free filtered mask given out by Straub Hospital and Clinic at its annual "Breathe With Ease into the New Year" event at Ala Moana Center yesterday.
The event provides information and help to people with breathing difficulties and raises awareness of the negative effects of fireworks on people with respiratory illnesses.
"Exposure to the irritant effects of fireworks smoke can exacerbate the symptoms of chronic lung disease like asthma and emphysema, resulting in increased breathing difficulty," said Dr. Jeffrey Kam, Straub Clinic & Hospital's allergy and asthma specialist, in a news release.
Kam suggested people with respiratory problems drink warm liquids tomorrow night and check their supply of medications ahead of time.
He said emergency rooms typically see a jump in patients with respiratory problems on New Year's Eve.
Over a three-year period that ended in 2005, the American Lung Association monitored Honolulu's air quality for a 24-hour period that started on New Year's Eve and gave it a "D."
"There's so many particulates that are released from the fireworks," said Beth Ann Kozlovich, American Lung Association of Hawaii's director of development. "It becomes a real danger for people" with respiratory disease.
More than 154,000 people in Hawaii have lung disease, such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, she said.
"There are people who can't walk from one side of the room to the bathroom because they have such diminished lung capacity," she said. "If you combine that with the fireworks stuff, you can have a recipe for disaster."
At yesterday's event, Straub staff handed out more than 1,000 respirator masks, including children's sizes this year, said event spokeswoman Jody Perreira.
Donna Wright, of Kailua, wanted a mask for her 5-year-old granddaughter, who has a dry cough when exposed to irritants in the air.
"We stay home, and we don't go out during New Year's Eve," she said. She hoped there would be less smoke this year because permit sales have been down.
"It's culture," she said. "But don't do as much. Some people go overboard."
Marlene Corpuz, 54, of Waipahu, picked up a mask for herself because air pollution from fireworks usually make her dizzy and nauseous.
"I try to stay indoors," she said. "But if I have a hot date I might need my respiratory mask and wet towels."
Tips while fireworks are in air
The Health Department suggests these guidelines during episodes of firework smoke or volcanic haze for people with respiratory or chronic lung disease:
» Stay indoors and close windows and doors.
» Check if your air purifier or air conditioner is working properly and change the filters if necessary.
» Don't smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
» If using medication, be sure to have an adequate supply and use as directed.
» Call your physician for instructions on what to do if your lung condition worsens.
» Avoid people with colds or lung infections, and wash your hands thoroughly.
» Drink plenty of warm fluids to loosen mucus.
» Get plenty of rest and limit physical exertion.
Call the Health Department's Clean Air Branch at 586-4200 for more information or the American Lung Association of Hawaii at 537-5966.
Protect your pets
Animals are also affected by fireworks. The Hawaiian Humane Society offers these tips for protecting pets on New Year's Eve:
» Ensure your pets have identification.
» Don't take your pet to firework displays.
» Keep animals indoors in a safe place.
» Don't leave your pet in a car.
» Call your veterinarian for tips or medication if your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises.