CLEVELAND — The Ohio EPA discontinued the statewide air quality advisory due to smoke from Canadian wildfires having less of an impact throughout the state, but levels may remain high in isolated areas, including in many Northeast Ohio counties, and we are not in the clear yet.

Dr. David Rosenberg is the director of University Hospital’s Ahuja Lung Center. He said breathing in the air for an extended period of time is not healthy for anyone right now, but especially children, older adults and people with chronic medical conditions like COPD, heart disease, asthma and COVID long-haulers.

“Patients need to be aware of coughing, congestion in their chest, wheezing and, obviously, shortness of breath. If you feel your breathing limited in any fashion, you really should call your health care provider and seek advice on what to do,” he said. “Those small particles are there and they can penetrate your lungs and cause damage.”

Yvonka Hall is one of millions of people that fall into the group of COVID long-haulers. Since the start of 2021, she has been struggling with brain fog, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal issues and irregular body temperatures.

“We don't talk about the impact that COVID has, and we don't talk about the long-term impact, what happens to people long term. I think right now, what we're seeing is what happens when you have a virus that is still here, that is an environmental disaster, combined with another environmental disaster,” said Hall.

She said earlier this week, she began noticing more severe problems with her breathing, irritation of her eyes, fatigue and sinus issues.

“I realized, okay, this...has nothing to do with allergies. This is everything about what's going on environmentally around the fires and what it's doing to my body because my body is already battling my long-hauler COVID and bronchitis,” she said.

She is staying inside as much as she can, continues to wear her mask and is letting her body rest when it needs it.

“Resting, if I need to, because my lungs are being taxed and making sure that I don't make this worse by doing some other things and just exasperating something that's already bothering me a great deal,” said Hall.

Dr. Rosenberg said he has received many phone calls from COVID long-haulers experiencing the same symptoms as Hall.

“If you've had COVID, you remember the bad coughing and congestion that you've had. And you know, the small particles can directly irritate those areas and make it worse. There's the unknown. I mean, obviously, these small particles can cause an immune reaction in your body, and who knows how that's going to affect long COVID patients into the future. So be cautious,” he said.

The air quality is expected to get better over the next few days, but Dr. Rosenberg encourages people who fall into sensitive categories tocheck the air quality index before going outside and to monitor their symptoms. If you are having trouble breathing, immediately get help.

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