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Respiratory Therapist/Asthma and phoenix

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Question
Hi Dr Rubin,

I am moving to Phoenix, AZ to be with family and friends. I had lived in Phoenix 15 years ago and left because of my asthma.
I have recently met a girl who is from Arizona. We live in the midwest now. She wants to move back to phoenix and I do too because my family and her family live there. I have been gone for a long time and want to go back.
However, phoenix almost killed me when I lived there 15 years ago. I got pneumonia and some nasty illnesses living there.

My asthma is bad. And the dust and pollution is bad there too.

Any suggestions? Should I move back and risk my health for my family or move somewhere else and not be near family and save my health? Maybe an air purifier? Or maybe living north of phoenix where there is pollution, but less of it?
Asthma is a killer. And the dust storms in Arizona may kill me. But I miss my family and my parents are retired. So I dont have much time left before they get too old.

Its extremely frustrating to live like this away from my family due to my asthma. It seems I have to live in a clean rural area to stay healthy. I am the guy in the plastic bubble.

Thanks, Todd

Answer
Hi Todd,

I think this question may have been sent to me by mistake (since it was addressed to Dr. Rubin) but I can certainly understand your dilemma so I will give you a few points to ponder although I know little about Arizona and the pollution there.

According to the American Lung Association Phoenix / Glendale / Mesa are in the top 25 cities for worst air pollution in the U. S. (2013) (http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html). On the flip-side, Prescott, Tucson, and Flagstaff are on the top 25 cleanest cities (year-round category)(http://www.stateoftheair.org/2013/city-rankings/cleanest-cities.html)

Considering the seriousness of your asthma and the level of pollution you would be exposed to it seems that your quality of life and health in Phoenix is likely to be compromised, especially since you have already lived there and had problems. An air purifier may be of some limited benefit at home but it will not be a cure all. Of course,it would be important to limit your exposure to known triggers as much as possible as well but this is easier said than done in a more polluted environment. Sometimes people who do not have such sensitivity to pollutants cannot understand how difficult it can be to live and function adequately in such an environment. The truth is that it affects all of us whether or not we "feel" it but for people like you (and me) the negative impact on health and thus life, physically and emotionally, is much greater and more enduring. And, needless to say, these impacts can have unpleasant effects on relationships as well.

Perhaps you can find some less polluted places relatively close, as you suggested, (possibly one of those noted above) that may provide viable alternatives for you, then you could still visit your parents more often or they could visit you. See if you can find information about others who have severe asthma or similar problems in the areas you consider as candidate home territories including Phoenix. Check with state or local groups like the Arizona Department of Health ((602) 542-1025)which has ongoing data collection and studies regarding asthma in Arizona to see if they can give you some helpful information and suggestions. And the American Lung Association offices in AZ as well. (http://www.lung.org/associations/states/arizona/)

It would be even better if your parents would move to a city with cleaner air as well but I know that it is difficult for most people to leave an area they have lived in for so long even if it is healthier for them to do so.

If you do choose to move to Phoenix anyway (or even if you do not),  I hope you will make it a point to work with and support organizations that are trying to improve air quality and quality of life there for yourself and everyone else too.

I wish you all the best in your journey.  

Respiratory Therapist

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Stephanie Tyrrell

Expertise

Respiratory Therapy is a very diverse field encompassing many specialty areas. I have experience in many of these areas and I am willing to answer any question I feel competent to answer within the scope of my experience in the following areas: neonatal ICU and transport, pulmonary rehabilitation, sleep studies, BiPAP/CPAP therapy, Holter monitoring, EKG, ventilator management, chronic and acute respiratory diseases,(i.e. COPD, asthma, restrictive disease, ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), pneumonia, etc) and therapeutics, arterial blood gases, and others. Please see my profile under Experience for a full listing of areas of experience.

Experience

I have worked in respiratory therapy for over 25 years in all facets of patient care including level 4 neonatal ICU and neonatal transport, Director of Cardiopulmonary, community health fairs and networking, staff therapist, pulmonary rehabilitation, sleep studies and BiPAP/CPAP therapy, Holter monitoring, EKG, cardiac clinics, pre and post cardiac surgery education and patient care, emergency and long-term ventilator management, chronic diseases such as COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis; acute respiratory distress syndrome, emergency room, home and nursing home respiratory care. I also provided temporary staff to area hospitals through an allied health business I owned and managed, while also working as a staff therapist for the business.

Education/Credentials
Certified Respiratory Therapist, Registered Respiratory Therapist, Licensed RT, NRP ((Neonatal Resuscitation Program) certified, BS Biology/Botany, MS Environmental Sciences - Toxicology

Past/Present Clients
Thousands of in-patient and out-patient clients in the hospitals I was/am employed by as well as a number of local hospitals that utilized the services of my allied health business. I currently work as a respiratory therapist at a general hospital and a rehabilitation hospital.

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