Harvest Affects Asthmatics

by Miranda Reynolds
Delta Digital News Service

Eli Norton (photo courtesy of the Norton family)

MCCRORY, Arkansas – Harvest season in the Delta creates turmoil for residents who annually suffer from asthma and allergies.

Eli Norton, age 7 of McCrory, has severe allergies requiring shots every other week. Aside from the shot, he uses nose spray and allergy medication in the mornings and at night. Lesley Norton, Eli’s mother, said she notices a change in Eli’s condition during harvest season.

“He gets more headaches and he has a more stuffy, runny nose,” she said. “Sneezing, coughing, just the typical symptoms you would have with allergies. When it’s not harvest season, we can do the shot once a month. With harvest season, we sometimes have to do it once a week depending on how severe his symptoms are.”

The farmers of rural communities in Arkansas cultivate their yields and feed its country’s residents during the fall season.

Billy Holmes, a farmer in Woodruff County, harvests about 1,600 acres of rice and soybeans. Holmes said soil types, residue, weather and the location of the fields determine whether to burn the rice stubble.

Safety is a concern for Holmes’s employees. Holmes said the employees keep themselves out of smoke as much as possible while doing the same for the neighboring farms. Laborers work mostly in tractors with cabs equipped with filtered air conditioning to protect them from dust.

Melissa Alumbaugh, advanced practiced registered nurse with ARcare, sees most of her patients suffering from allergies in the spring and fall. Alumbaugh said harvest season absolutely affects those with asthma.

Alumbaugh said preventative measures that asthma suffers can take include:

  • Avoid irritants. Use prescribed allergy medications, including antihistamines and nasal steroids.
  • Use dust mite covers on beds.
  • Use humidifiers at night.

The dust and smoke that harvest season produced may affect children, adults and the elderly.

Knowing personal conditions regarding dust and smoke can help with better preparation for this time of year. A health care provider can assist with a plan of action when harvest season occurs in Arkansas.