Chronic bronchitis, asthma and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes are some of the illnesses that may develop by breathing in polluted air, according to FOX News medical contributor Dr. Janette Nesheiwat.
While individuals with pre-existing conditions are most at risk during poor air quality conditions, all individuals are in danger of developing long-term symptoms if exposed to polluted air for long periods of time.
"At a certain level, like if the air quality index is more than 300, whether you have medical conditions or not, you are at risk – it is hazardous for you," Nesheiwat said.
She noted that polluted air contains tiny particles and debris, such as toxic plastic, metals and chemicals, which can enter deep into the lungs and irritate them. The particulates are also capable of making their way into the bloodstream.
In the long term, Nesheiwat said some individuals may develop chronic bronchitis, asthma and impaired lung function. Others may experience an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
"Most of us will be OK," Nesheiwat said. "But for some people that maybe had a little bit longer exposure, they might have bronchitis, wheezing, cough, that sort of thing."
Nesheiwat added that even as the air quality improves, people in vulnerable groups should still take precautions.
"It's reasonable to wear an N95 mask outdoors if you have asthma or lung problems until those levels of the particulate matter go down to normal, until our air quality index goes down," Nesheiwat said. "Because, even though you can't see it, there's still some debris in the air."