BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - As Canada’s neighbor, we can’t help but notice its wildfire smoke drifting into the U.S. Since Canada’s wildfires first started around late April, U.S. residents have been experiencing the side effects.

The CDC says asthma-related ER visits have increased by 17 percent. Local doctor Jeremiah Penn, who works in Essentia’s walk-in and urgent care center, says he’s been seeing more asthmatic patients as well.

“Anytime you’re breathing in these irritating particles, it causes the lungs to spasm and react a little bit more. Even for people who don’t have asthma, it can become an issue, but when you’ve got asthma, you just respond that much more quickly to issues, so you have more trouble with it,” Dr. Penn said. reports Bismarck’s air quality as being at 154, or unhealthy. For reference, good air quality is generally between 1 and 50. There’s good news, though — we might have some clear skies soon.

“We’ve had another thick plume of smoke come into our area. It looks like on Wednesday or Thursday, though, it’ll clear out, as we have some winds shifting direction to be out of the southeast. We normally need a wind out of the north to pull in that smoke from Canada,” KFYR-TV Meteorologist Jacob Morse said.

Walking outside is unavoidable for a lot of people, but Dr. Penn says there are steps you can take to stay healthy, like having an asthma action plan in place, something he says nearly half of the asthmatic patients who come in don’t have.

He also recommends staying inside, decreasing your outdoor activity level where you can, using a respirator and making sure your air filters are up to date.

Natural Resources Canada expects the fires to last several more weeks.

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