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Every breath you take
Air quality should be monitored to determine appropriate work sessions


Since all of these pollutants can cause lung damage it is important to know how much of these irritants is in the air where you and your clients' horses live. The EPA maintains a Web site that can provide this information and will help you counsel your clients on management of these sensitive horses. By accessing http://www.epa.gov/airnow/, you will enter the national AQI center site. This site explains the AQI and allows you to click on "Forecasts". This provides a map of the United States. Clicking on your city (or the nearest city shown) will give you a current forecast for air quality. The primary and secondary pollutants are listed along with a summarized health risk warning and a detailed forecast. Yesterday's conditions are available for trend comparison, and archive links are present to check today's conditions against those of last year's on the same date. These features are important when trying to set up a better management plan, for a COPD horse for instance. Many of your clients will report that a particular horse always seems to have trouble breathing or has reduced training days at a particular time of the year. What is it about the allergen exposure at that particular time? Is it a particular level of ozone for instance or a combination of heat, and particulate matter? Only by recording daily AQI levels and correlating them to that horse's breathing and performance record will you be able to see and use trends. The Airnow site also allows you to bring up a map of a specific area and to see a graphic representation of the AQI changes occurring throughout a single day mapped out in 20-minute intervals. A calculated prediction of the next day also is available. This can be of value in deciding if and when to work a horse on a specific day. If the AQI data—using either the archived data for usual conditions for that location or the predictive map—shows that air quality will be good until 11:00 a.m. and then will deteriorate until after 8:00 p.m., then you should suggest that any exercise or use of that particular horse occur only when the air quality is acceptable. With consistent use and attention to a horse's responses the AQI data can yield very specific guidelines. Ozzie is a case in point. This dressage horse has been suffering with COPD in the Atlanta area for years. He is generally controlled with oral Albuterol but still has intense flare-ups throughout the summer and cannot be ridden, and he must be monitored closely during these allergic episodes. With use of the Airnow site and through his owner's observations, it has been determined that Ozzie's number is 61. Below 50 he can be worked hard, does not need to be treated and shows no problems. Fifty-one to 61 requires daily Albuterol and a reduced work level. Exercise when the AQI is above 61 triggers a reaction, and Ozzie will take days to return to normal. Additionally, it has been determined that Ozzie reacts most strongly when the primary pollutant is particulate matter rather than ozone, so a 60 with high ozone is not as bad for this horse as a 60 with high PM. This wealth of data has allowed Ozzie's owner to get more useful work from her horse during a difficult time of the year while doing a better job of controlling his health issues. Hurley agrees that this type of AQI data management is the way of the future.

"Eventually it is hoped that research will be able to identify the particular pattern of allergic triggers for individuals," Hurley says. "Products such as leukotrine inhibitors can help to stop those triggers form causing these severe allergic responses."

Until that point, using the EPA data to find the AQI number that works best for affected horses may be the best management plan available.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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