Canadian wildfires causing air quality concerns

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- With a smoky haze moving from Canada into Wisconsin, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says the alert level is "elevated to moderate.”

WEAU Health Correspondent Dr. Alicia Arnold sat down with Tyler Mickelson to talk about it. Their Q & A can be found below.

How nervous should we be?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Smoke from wildfires can travel large distances, so even if you aren’t right next to the fire, you can still potentially be affected. The good news is that the vast majority of people should not have problems with a rating of moderate. Once the level goes higher than that, some individuals may begin to have issues resulting from air quality.”

Are there certain health conditions people can have that might make this more serious?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “People who have lung or heart problems may be particularly vulnerable to needing medical attention due to their underlying conditions. Also, the elderly and young children may be at higher risk for problems.”

So what is it exactly in the polluted air contains that causes problems?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Tiny particles in pollution can get into the lungs and cause health problems. Also, ozone, a potentially harmful gas, can form near the ground when pollution reacts in sunlight.”

What are some of the health effects that these pollutants can cause?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “The tiny particles in the smoke can have negative effects such as asthma exacerbations or heart problems. Ozone can make it more difficult to breathe and cause irritation and damage in our lungs. It can also make our lungs more susceptible to infection.”

Just in case... What are symptoms we should watch out for?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “Exposure to particle pollution can increase visits to the emergency room and hospital stays, particularly for people who have chronic health conditions. These individuals can watch for symptoms such as chest pain, irregular heartbeats, problems with coughing or shortness of breath.”

Fires could get even worse, given the drought, at what point *should* we consider limiting our activity outside?

Dr. Alicia Arnold, “If the air quality index becomes an unhealthy level, you should limit your outdoor activity, particularly exercising or doing heavy work outdoors. Since we breathe more heavily and frequently when we are physically active, we risk more exposure to the pollution.”