The monsoon can provide a break from the monotony of summer’s 110-degree-plus days, but the season also brings some health issues.
Monsoon storms drop the air quality by locking in pollution. High ozone levels can worsen respiratory conditions such as asthma and make breathing harder for the elderly and the very young. Symptoms caused by high ozone levels include sore throat, shortness of breath and chest tightness. When ozone levels are high, limit your time outdoors.
Monsoon season also transports dust that can worsen asthma and other chronic pulmonary conditions. The dust also can carry coccidioides immiti. That’s the soil-dwelling fungus that can cause valley fever. Unsuspecting individuals inhale the fungal spores into their lungs, said Gerald Schwartzberg, MD, an HonorHealth Medical Group pulmonary disease specialist.
Valley fever is more commonly found in arid regions, notably the southwestern United States, Mexico and South America. Symptoms can vary from person to person, which can make it difficult to diagnose. You may experience:
- fever, chills, fatigue, cough and headache.
- rashes, chest pain, joint aches, shortness of breath and nausea.
- symptoms that typically last for up to four weeks.
“Valley fever commonly resolves on its own, but more severe infections require antifungal treatments by a doctor,” Dr. Schwartzberg said. "If you have a weakened immune system, you’re more likely to develop a serious case, if you’re infected. You should be monitored by your doctors to avoid potentially dangerous complications from the illness.”
There’s no cure for valley fever. Once you have the infection, it remains in your system for life. The fungus lies dormant but may reactivate years later. Take these precautions to minimize your exposure to the fungus:
- if you see a dust storm or receive a dust storm warning, head inside.
- if you’re in a car when a dust storm strikes, roll up the windows and keep the vents closed to avoid directly breathing the dust.
- install HEPA filters to improve the quality of the air you breathe inside.
If you begin to experience symptoms that you suspect may be valley fever, see your doctor.