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Respiratory cases increase at Washington hospitals due to heavy wildfire smoke

Washington hospitals are noticing more people with breathing issues visiting the emergency room

SEATTLE — While many were hoping for some sort of relief from the smoke, that didn't happen Monday night. 

Air quality monitoring web site IQAir said Seattle and much of the state is experiencing 'unhealthy' or 'very unhealthy' air quality.

The website has forecasted at least three more days of smoky air and moderate conditions.

University of Washington professor Dr. Joel Kaufman said breathing in the small particles in the smokey air can worsen existing health conditions.

"It can cause some inflammation there which can worsen things like asthma, or chronic lung disease or set off inflammation that can cause other problems," said Kaufman. 

Local hospitals are noticing more people with breathing issues visiting the emergency room.

A spokesperson for Harborview Medical Center said the hospital is seeing an increase of three people per day with respiratory issues. 

Snohomish County EMS received about 30 respiratory calls on both Saturday and Sunday. Calls have since returned to normal levels, which is about 18 respiratory per day. 

Kaufman said there's a lot of concern about the so-called double-whammy that comes with battling the pandemic and the effects of wildfire smoke at the same time. 

"So here we are in the middle of a respiratory pandemic, a viral pandemic that's going on, a pathogen circulating, at the same time, we have this respiratory hazard from the smoke coming in, and there's, yes, every reason to believe that those two things could combine to cause more inflammation," he said.

Kaufman suggests listening to your body if you are experiencing mild breathing problems. He said people who are experiencing chest pains and have a history of respiratory problems, should consult a doctor or go to the hospital. 

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