Triple threat: COVID-19, smoking and mountain cedar pollen

Woman sneezing.
Some younger people can have impaired immunologic resilience.

Mary Lucas lives on San Antonio’s Northeast Side with her 8-year-old son, Mychael Gordon. Both have asthma, requiring them to have ready access to an inhaler and nebulizer. Making matters worse, the neighbors in their apartment complex smoke.

“We have it coming in from all sides,” Mary said. “If somebody starts smoking in one of the other apartments behind us, it comes through our vents. We don’t smoke, but if you walk into our bathroom, it smells like smoke. Our closet smells like smoke.”

Mountain cedar pollen, dust, molds and other allergy triggers don’t help the situation. Last year, both Mary and Mychael were hospitalized with respiratory illnesses; Mary had community-acquired pneumonia.

Their story is typical, and with COVID-19, flu, mountain cedar and smoking all in play in South and Central Texas this winter, the stakes are high for many people, said Claudia S. Miller, MD, MS, a professor emeritus and environmental health expert at UT Health San Antonio.

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