Dust storms, wildfires affect air quality

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By Sarah Blais By Sarah Blais

PHOENIX -- This is the prime time for bad weather in Arizona. Between wildfires and dust storms, there are precautions you can take to stay healthy from the air we're breathing.

Right now, the biggest danger out there are all the fires burning in the north and south parts of the state. Medical expert Dr. Art Mollen said that people who live within 20 to 30 miles of these fires can be adversely affected by carbon monoxide and other chemicals released from the blaze.

"All of those are going to be released from the fire," Mollen said.

Even in the city, precautions should be taken. Dust from our notorious haboobs carry fungus spores, which can lead to valley fever if you're exposed to them.

People with underlying conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or bronchitis, should be particularly cautious during this time of year.

Too much exposure to the smoky air can produce symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, red eyes, soot in your nostrils, and headaches.

You could even experience mental changes or a blueish hue to your skin.

"That's because you have a decreased amount of oxygen that you're taking in," Mollen said.

The best thing you can do is limit your exposure outdoors. Exercise indoors instead, and be sure to keep the air conditioning on. If you're driving, many cars have a recirculate button that recycles air from the car instead of outside.

You can also wear a mask outdoors, which filters small particles that get into your chest.

"It's not simply people with [pre-existing conditions]," Mollen said. "It's everyone who's affected."