Doctors: Red tide-related health problems increase in southern Bay Area counties

There are more disturbing reminders of how serious the red tide crisis is in southern Bay Area counties.

A 14th dolphin has been found dead Wednesday afternoon in Venice. Tuesday, Mote Marine crews recovered a calf dolphin off Manasota Beach. 

A necropsy will be performed on both of them to see if red tide was the cause of death, but Mote says almost every recovered dolphin had a stomach full of dead fish -- which is often a sign red tide is to blame.

Red tide can be hard on people, too. Besides the foul odor of dead fish, just breathing in red tide can make you cough, your throat hurt, and your eyes water.

For people with lung and respiratory problems, it’s even worse, and doctors say they're seeing more patients because of it -- especially in Sarasota County, where red tide is severe.

LINK: More red tide algae detected off Pinellas coast

“We were all sitting around coughing. People say, ‘What's going on here? Why am I coughing?” Jetty Jacks owner Chris Johnson said.

Dr. Michael Patete, of the Ear, Nose, Throat and Sinus Center, says that's common for anyone when red tide hits.

“It's the toxin in the air. You can smell it in the air,” Dr. Patete said.

You can also feel it in your throat and your head.

While red tide toxins are especially rough on people with asthma, lung cancer, emphysema, COPD, and other respiratory illnesses, Dr. Patete says he's treated many more otherwise healthy patients.

“There's been an increase in the severity of the symptoms in people on a daily basis that are coming in with quote-unquote sinuses issues, post nasal drip, cough, Eustachian tube dysfunction, sneezing, sniffling, eye-watering, shortness of breath and it's continued and it just doesn't stop,” Dr. Patete continued.

This red tide bloom has been around for 10 months. It moved into Venice two months ago and brought with it a major headache.

“People need to make sure they protect themselves as much as they can from exposure to the toxin because those airway issues are there even for people who don't have chronic problems,” Dr. Patete explained.

Pulmonary Specialist Dr. Donald Arents says his patient number has also increased.

LINK: Red tide clean-up continues in Manatee County

“We are seeing five to seven patients a day. Some who have lung disease. Others who have no history of lung disease at all, but they are still having pulmonary symptoms,” Dr. Arents said.

Many are left wondering if there could be long-term effects. It's a question that's left unanswered.

“We don't know how long-term exposure might affect these patients. There's no data to support,” Dr. Patete offered.

Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have asked the CDC for a million dollars in additional funding to study the health impacts of red tide. The money would go toward tracking the number of people who get sick after being exposed to the red tide toxins and would allow scientists to take a good look at the hardest-hit areas.