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Feel the burn: Wildfires contribute to poor air quality

Forest fires release pollen particles into the air.

The warmer temperatures that come with spring are not only responsible for causing trees and flowers to bloom – they also can be blamed for prolonging wildfires in the western part of the country. As these fire spread, they can indirectly cause additional suffering for those with allergies.

According to Dr. Dianne McCallister, chief medical officer at Colorado's Porter Adventist Hospital, wildfires can exacerbate allergy symptoms. When fires out west tear down everything in their path, they also send burned particles of trees and plants into the air. Contained within this smoke are pollen fibers that exacerbate existing allergy symptoms if individuals are within close proximity to the burning particles.

"The smoke from wildfires contains both gases and then fine particles from the burning trees, plants and structures," McCallister told Denver's ABC affiliate. "The smoke is very irritating to both our respiratory system, with worsening of heart and lung conditions – and to our eyes – producing irritation and watery eyes."

In general, allergy sufferers have trouble breathing when air quality is poor. When low air quality can be attributed to smoke or pollen, anyone with sensitivities or asthma should avoid the outdoors and make sure that their doors and windows are kept closed. If particles infiltrate homes, they can become embedded in upholstery or carpet, where they are difficult to remove.

When the government's Air Quality Index (AQI) registers a 101-150 level, individuals with medical conditions may begin to have trouble breathing while outside. They should check their local weather report or look up AQI maps online to determine what steps should be taken before they leave their home. Whether this means starting a regimen of medication or even wearing a mask, these individuals should be prepared for any air condition.

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