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How dusty, smoky days in Southern Colorado can affect your health

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Dirt, smoke, and haze return to the horizon in Southern Colorado Wednesday which is increasing air pollution across the region.

Some of this haze is attributed to blowing dust from increased wins, but much of it towards the south is due to smoke from a major wildfire burning in New Mexico.

The Pueblo Fire Department tells people suffering from respiratory ailments might want to plan on being indoors as much as possible Wednesday.

There’s also an Air Quality Health Advisory in place by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment until 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Dr. Ian Tullberg, Medical Director of UCHealth Urgent Care clinics says the lower air quality can affect anyone, but is especially a concern for those with certain conditions.

“Those with underlying heart conditions, underlying lung conditions, or asthma," said Dr. Tullberg. "Those folks, and those with some congestive heart failure or COPD, are really the folks that the air pollution is really going to hone in on and cause a bigger issue for.”

While the haze may seem harmless, it contains a microscopic problem.

"It's really those tiny particles from the fire that really can can get in the lungs and cause some irritation," said Dr. Tullberg. "But not only there, also in your mucous membranes, in your nose, and also can make you feel pretty crummy."

Ways to avoid irritation include staying inside and keeping the windows closed both at your house and in your car.

There's also the 'recirculation button' in most cars that will recycle the air inside, instead of continuously pulling in smoky air from outside.

“Number one, watch your news," said Dr. Tullberg. "Whether you get it on TV, or from an app, certainly make sure that you are watching those air quality numbers, especially if you are one of those folks that could have higher risk with you with the poor air quality. The big thing is you want to be a little bit more preventative. So maybe don't go for your 5 a.m. or 8 a.m run. Stay inside when that air quality is really, really bad, and keep your kids in as well."

When it's really smoky outside, Dr. Tullberg also recommends running your air conditioner.

"That's going to help purify the air a little bit," said Dr. Tullberg. "Do not vacuum inside. That's going to really put all that dust up in the air as well, is going to have to get settled down."

Another tip: try not to rub your eyes if they’re irritated from the air. One of those particles could scratch your cornea.

Also, if it’s super smoky out, many of the masks you have lying around from the pandemic, can also filter out smoke particles. According to the EPA, an N95 is the best mask to filter out harmful particles.

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Mallory Anderson

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