Then Why Am I Coughing So Much?

by | June 10, 2023

then why am I coughing so much

I Have Asthma 

I have been coughing a lot this week. So have many Americans. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 1 in 13 people in the U.S. have asthma. That’s 8.3% of Americans (26.5 million people). That’s a lot of people! Of the 26.5 million of Americans that have asthma, 20.4 million are adults and 6.1 million are children. 

Asthma is a Serious Issue

Asthma is nothing to dismiss. It is the most common chronic illness in childhood. This disease accounts for almost 14 million missed school days each year for children and 14.2 million missed days of work for adults. The cost of asthma each year is $56 BILLION annually. 

According the CDC in Atlanta GA, patients with asthma report about 11 million visits to the doctor and 1.7 million visits to hospital outpatient departments. Half of us with asthma have at least one asthma attack each year. Children (53%) are more likely to have an asthma attack than adults (44.9%). More than 3,500 Americans die of asthma each year, nearly half of them are 65 years of age or older.     

Canadian Fires Create Air Pollution in the U.S.  

As some of us have personally experienced or as all of us have seen on the news, smoke and haze continue to fill large swaths of the United States as wildfires burn in Canada. Over the past six weeks, smoke from raging wildfires in Central Canada has been traveling southward. Polluted air now covers the eastern half of the U.S.  

This week, the level of particulate matter in the air from smoke has been unhealthy everywhere from St. Louis Missouri to Minneapolis Minnesota to Louisville Kentucky to the Atlantic coast. This has placed millions of Americans at risk, especially those like me with asthma. 

New York City now has the worst air quality in the world – hard to believe, considering the competition!  Health officials have been urging people in New York to limit their outdoor activities and New York City schools canceled all of their outdoor activities on Wednesday of this week.  

Air Pollution (Smoke) is Dangerous for Many 

Poor air-quality advisories now affect around 110 million people. There is another one up today where I live near the western basin of Lake Erie. All the particulate matter in wildfire smoke bring some very concerning health risks for people like me. The problem is the particulates in smoke. Many of these particulates are very small.  

These are considered “fine inhalable particles” because they are small enough to get into the smallest airways of your lungs—not a good thing. Smoke is not good for the lungs, no matter where it comes from. Inhaling such particulates can irritate your airways, lead to coughing, chest pain and difficulty breathing. This can be very problematic for those who already have underlying respiratory problems such as asthma, COPD, or emphysema. 

Another major health concern is the impact of breathing smoke on the cardiovascular system. Inhaling such particulates can trigger cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes. Research has reported that for every increase of 10 micrograms of particulates per cubic meter, there is a 1% to 2% increase in cardiovascular events, hospitalizations, and deaths. I guarantee that there will be more strokes, heart attacks and hospitalizations due to the smoke, especially where air quality if the poorest. 

Smoke Inhalation Over Time Can Hurt You 

While most deaths due to air pollution occur from chronic exposures over time, when air pollution rises even in the short term like it has over the past few weeks, it can pose health risks especially in vulnerable populations. 

Inhaling smoke over time can hurt you. Breathing air pollution is responsible for 5 to 7 million deaths a year. Besides making chronic diseases worse such as asthma, COPD, emphysema, coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure, exposure to smoke over time can lead to the development of various new health problems such as lung issues, cardiovascular problems, and cancer. Thus, it is best for people to avoid smoke.  

The Poor and Those Already Disadvantaged with Suffer the Most 

As with most environmental issues, the poor and those already disadvantaged suffer the most. These folks will suffer from a greater percentage of hospitalizations and deaths. Why? Because the poor cannot work from home, or purchase whole house air conditioning, or air cleaners that help filter out the particulates. Furthermore, the poor tend to be priced out of the leafy suburbs where there are fewer highways, less industry, and better air quality. 

The Canadian Wildfires Caused by Climate Change

By 1880, we had temperature data recorded for most major U.S. cities. Caused by humans or not, there is no fudging or lying when it comes to temperatures. The thermometer reads what it reads. Here is what the thermometer tells us: Since 1880, the earth’s temperature has gone up by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. The rate of warming since 1981, has been twice as fast. Are increasing temperatures around the globe a problem for us? YES. 

Extreme temperatures and drought conditions have created a tinderbox in many areas. Warm and dry conditions are like kindling for wildfires. Much of Canada, like the rest of North America, has experienced record heat and drought recently as climate change continues to warm the planet. 

Research clearly demonstrates that temperature increases and drier conditions lead to longer and more active fire seasons. Increases in temperatures and the thirst of the atmosphere, have increased the “arid nature” of forest fuels during the fire season.

Have areas burned by fire increased over time? YES. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. government says that these “drivers” of fire are responsible for over half the observed decrease in the moisture content of fuels in western U.S. forests from 1979 to 2015, and the doubling of the area burned by forest fires over the time period of 1984–2015. 

So, I say get used to fires and more smoke. I (and many other public health experts) believe that wildfires will increase as global temperatures and drought increase. As an example, the Canadian wildfire season runs from May through October. However, such destruction by fire, this early in the season is rare. Only one month in, Canada is on track to have its most destructive wildfire season in history. 

Many on the Right are Wrong (and Do Not Seem to Care)

On the Grass Roots Health podcast and in these blogs, I simply “call balls and strikes.”  However, I am going to be honest with you and tell you what the evidence shows. The evidence clearly shows via multiple, objective, peer-reviewed, published studies that certain politicians, their followers, and their propaganda media machines ignore reality and mislead people with conspiracy theories. 

Many times their conspiracy theories are dangerous to one’s health. For example, Preston Padden, a former top-level executive at Fox Broadcasting, wrote that Fox News had contributed substantially and directly to the unnecessary death of many Americans by fueling hesitation about the efficacy and safety of lifesaving COVID 19 vaccines. He admitted this and people still watch and believe this network? 

Listen to this podcast about mis/disinformation and conspiracy theories: 

First these deniers said that COVID-19 was not real; or that God would protect people from getting it; or that COVID was just like a cold or flu (I dare you to tell that to bereaved relatives of the 1.2 million Americans who are now dead); or that the COVID vaccines killed thousands of people and were not safe (all false by the way). 

You see, watching Fox and other right-wing media outlets and believing what they tell you is bad for your health. Don’t believe me? Then believe objective researchers who use objective data to prove or disprove hypotheses. According to social science researchers, during the recent viral pandemic, people that watched a lot of content on Fox were less likely to adopt behaviors geared toward protecting themselves from the virus. The effect of Fox was due to their long-standing, distrustful stance toward science and to program-specific content that minimized the COVID-19 threat. This is the network that some people trust? Fair and balanced?   

Due to the Dominion Voting Machine law suit, we know that Fox network lies. Their dishonesty was proven in a court of law and they had to pay $787.5 million for it.   

Therefore, watch Fox and other right-wing media at your own risk. It is like drinking poison. It is bad for you. These cable outlets poison the minds of millions of Americans with deceptive propaganda they spray into living rooms every day and night. They tell people to abandon science, research, and modern medicine – all things that can save lives. I thought that Fox was pro-life? 

Again Denying the Reality of a Significant Health Threat 

In the case of the Canadian wildfires, it is again conservative politicians and right-wing media denying the reality of this air pollution crisis. Furthermore, they are dismissing Americans like me who have asthma and other respiratory conditions. How do you think it makes me feel when I hear them telling lies? 

Certain individuals among them have even argued that the smoke choking out the nation’s major economic centers is a good thing. Really?? Explain how that is a good thing for America.  

Republican Representative Mark Molinaro, from Yonkers New York should know better! He said it is too soon to “politicize” the smoke by lecturing people about the science of climate change. Sounds like the Republican response to gun safety to me. After 500 mass shootings (since 1966), the NRA and Republicans continue to say it is too early to act and pass common sense gun safety laws.   

Newsmax’s Greg Kelly said that this about the smoke from Canada: “It’s a beautiful, interesting aura” and “it’s not an unpleasant odor, to be honest.”  Again, he totally dismissed the health risks of 110 million Americans. 

On Laura Ingraham’s show last night, Steve Milloy, climate change denier and a mouthpiece for Big Oil said that though the air might be ugly, it’s “not a health risk.”  Really? Hmm. I did not know that. I guess that he knows more than all the pulmonologists in the world who disagree with him. 

Jessie Waters said the orange cloud of smoke was not dangerous along with another guest on Laura Ingraham’s show who said this about the smoke: “There’s just no health risk…We have this kind of air in India and China all the time, no public health emergency… this doesn’t kill anybody, this doesn’t make anybody cough, this is not a health event… particulate matter is just very fine soot, they’re innocuous.”  Really? So again, I say that that Jessie and this guest know more than all the pulmonologists in the world who disagree with them.    

Please Realize that You are Just a Number 

It is important that you understand that certain politicians and their propaganda media and social media operations do not care one whit about you. In their minds, you are just a number. According to them, if you watch Fox, you are someone who likes to be fed their denialism as you generate money for them by watching their paid advertising. 

They will never believe the moment is right to take your health seriously or to believe climate change as real. These politicians and their propagandists are either too ignorant to acknowledge the reality of what is occurring worldwide or too crass and cold hearted to care about the havoc it is going to wreak on future generations – or even this current one.    

The 1795 Group Can Help 

We do care! That’s why we do what we do. We believe in being part of solutions. Perhaps you would like a guest speaker or a presentation on environmental health. Perhaps you would like to have your students, learners, or employees enjoy an in-person or virtual professional development workshop in this topical area. Perhaps you need a course to be written for your learners. Whatever your need, the 1795 Group can help. Call us and let’s brainstorm ways to work together.  

Contact me today:

Phone: (419) 359- 5798 (text first)






Dr. Tim Jordan

Dr. Timothy R. Jordan has been a health educator (grades 6-12), Assistant High School Principal, Associate Director of Graduate Medical Education for a large health care system, and a Professor of Public Health for the past 23 years. His areas of research include end-of-life, reducing racial/ethnic health disparities, health behavior change, chronic disease prevention, and smoking prevention and cessation. He is the founder and the current director of the 1795 Group.

Contact us today for your free one hour consultation.

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