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Tracking the health impact of wildfire smoke from Canada

Canada wildfire smoke lingers in Southern Colorado on Monday
Posted at 11:30 PM, May 22, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for Multiple Pollutants. This includes El Paso and Teller counties and will remain in effect until 10 pm Tuesday.

We'll see another day of hazy skies and poor visibility due to wildfire smoke from Canada drifting south into Colorado.

Most days, you have no problem seeing Pikes Peak in the distance as you look west to the mountain, but the past few days, you can see a blanket of smoke and haze still covering the area.

The good news is that the air quality is a bit better than it was over the weekend and last Friday.

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The air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups right now. Symptoms of eye irritation, a runny nose or a cough could be worse for people of all ages, especially for people with lung or respiratory issues, or asthma and allergies.

”Those patients that have respiratory disease, they're going to have a worsening of their baseline symptoms. So coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, things like that,” said Dr. Nathanial Brady, an allergist with Pikes Peak Allergy & Asthma.

Dr. Brady said those without respiratory diseases can still experience irritation from wildfire smoke.

“That's going to be sinus, irritation, that could have worsening of congestion or drainage, maybe having issues with sore throat scratchiness, and then the eyes also can get very irritated,” said Dr. Brady.

He encourages people to limit their time outside, including exercising and other physical activities and closing all windows. N95 masks and sinus rinses could also help, or see a specialist as needed.

One resident said he’s felt the impacts of the smoke, over the past few days.

“Definitely tougher to breathe. I ride a bike. So I noticed myself getting off more frequently and taking breaths," said Johnathan Trujillo.

Dr. Brady said as the smoke begins to clear up, people without respiratory issues will see relief pretty quickly, while others who are high-risk could still feel those symptoms in the days and weeks ahead.

Dr. Brady said he’s also been seeing more patients in the past few days.

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