2010 March 11: WI: Why Foggy Air Can be Bad Air
Updated: Mar 11, 2010 5:27 PM CST
Because of the current foggy weather, the Department of Natural Resources issued an air quality watch for most of Wisconsin until late Thursday night.
When your airways tighten and you can’t stop the sniffles, an allergy specialist like Dr. Jeffrey Glassheim is usually the next stop.
Thursday he was checking on 12-year-old Douglas, who was having trouble breathing.
"He just has a constant runny nose, like always," Debra Derkes, whose son has allergies, said.
Glassheim thinks fine particles or particulate matter in the air could be one of the issues.
"In the winter time with particulates it’s usually post-nasal drainage; they get gunky and they feel themselves swallowing extra mucus that’s produced," Dr. Glassheim said.
Fine particle pollution is composed of microscopic dust, soot, and smoke particles in the air — mostly from power plants, factories, and vehicles.
When the Air Quality Index rating breaks 100, like it did Thursday, the conditions can potentially harm older adults and people with respiratory or heart illness.
Doctor Glassheim says you’ll likely find air quality watches on foggy days because these hazardous fine particles get trapped in the moisture, making them easier to inhale.
"Those water droplets — those micro droplet-sized particles — drag down those particulates and attract them in such a way that they are more easily able to be inhaled," he explained.
Glassheim says a lot of people are affected by the air quality but never know it is the culprit.
"So folks should be listening to their body," he said, "and if they start to have some of these issues — or worse yet, coughing and wheezing down in the lower airway, even more urgent — they should speak to their physicians about that."