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Smoky air poses health risks for some, doctors say

Smoky air poses health risks for some, doctors say

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – A Kadlec doctor tells us breathing in this smoke is not something to panic about, but some people should be more cautious than others.

It's a sight most aren't used to--our same town, streets, and buildings smothered in smoke--passersby carrying on their day in face masks to protect their lungs.

“It's causing a lot of irritation,” Dr. John Matheson, of the Kadlec Emergency Department said. “People feel it. It doesn't take much to recognize that it is causing problems.”

Matheson said breathing in the smoke for most people isn't going to cause long-term health problems—it’s more of an irritant.

He said recently they have been treating a number of patients for symptoms like coughing, burning eyes, or congestion.

“The ash particles are direct irritants,” said Dr. Joshua Benditt of the UW Medical Center. “And when you breathe in deep, even though your nose and the back of your throat filters the air, some particulants will get into the lungs.”

But these symptoms that might just be inconvenient for most can be much more severe for groups like children and the elderly.

“We're seeing people who have asthma or COPD or other chronic lung conditions,” Matheson said. “They're more likely to be affected by this.”

The smoky air for those who have chronic conditions can make it hard for them to breathe at all.

“Any time you have problems breathing, come in and see us,” Matheson said.

And that goes for anyone.

“I don't think people have to hold up, tape up their windows, but it's a good idea to avoid prolonged exposure,” he said.

Matheson's biggest piece of advice as we endure several more days of this? Don’t go outside if you can help it.

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