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Arizona monsoon season poses health risk for ailing and even the fit

(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s monsoon season can be an especially difficult time for people with certain health issues, but everyone can take precautions to lessen the chance for serious problems.

“In general, most patients know what gets them sicker, so that favors the situation,” Dr. Thomas Ardiles, a Phoenix physician, told KTAR News 92.3 FM this week, when the Valley was swamped by three straight days of pounding rain, dust storms and relatively high humidity.

“Get to know your illness, know what makes you sick and try to stay away from it, (whether) it’s extreme heat or humidity, or sometimes cold weather.”

Ardiles, a pulmonary disease specialist, said dust storms can trigger valley fever, a fungal infection.

“People can get valley fever anytime, even just driving through Arizona. The more you’re exposed … you get more chances of getting valley fever.”

Mild cases have few symptoms, but symptoms of an acute case include fever, night sweats, headache, cough and chills.

If the infection spreads dramatically, worst-case scenarios include painful lesions on the spine or skull and meningitis.

Ardiles said people who worked outdoors — landscapers or construction workers — were prone to come down with valley fever.

Air quality can also be an issue even without dust storms.

“We’re in a big city and pollution advisories are, I think, unavoidable,” Ardiles said.

“Part of the Key is to have good control of your disease, that way, even if it’s a bad pollution day, you’d be OK. Stay indoors.”

Sometimes, indoors can turn against you.

Storms knocked out power to thousands in the Valley. Daytime temperatures were in low 100s.

Dehydration can pose a threat in an overly warm home, Ardiles said.

“If you get to an extreme state of dehydration, you may lose the ability to think clearly,” he said.

“If your power is out, you can go to the mall, a friend’s house — somewhere you can stay cool, because, before you know it, your house is going to be in the high 90s or low 100s.

“You will get dehydrated very quickly.”

Forecasts for the rest of the week pointed to temperatures in the low 100s but climbing by the middle of next week.

There could be scattered showers Thursday and Friday.

The National Weather Service was expecting increased chance for rain over the weekend.

Monsoon season in Arizona officially runs from June 15 to the end of September.

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