Michigan health officials are reminding residents to check their local Air Quality Index and adjust their outdoor plans accordingly as unhealthy levels of air pollution can cause short- and long-term issues.

Smoky air from wildfires in Canada have swept into Michigan this week for the second time this month. Doctors and meteorologists have said this could become an issue that comes and goes throughout the summer as the wildfires continue to burn.

Exposure to the smoky air can have short-term health consequences, causing things like shortness of breath, chest tightness, cough, sore throat and irritated eyes. Symptoms can set it quicker and be more serious for individuals with underlying conditions like asthma, COPD, emphysema, allergies and history of heart and lung disease.

Extended exposure to high levels of particulate can lead to long-term effects, explained Dr. Ikenna Okereke, a thoracic surgeon for Henry Ford Health.

“Some of these diseases we’re talking about, you don’t see immediately but it’s the long-term accumulation of exposure that will probably cause this and by the time you get some of these diseases, they’re irreversible and only treated by resection, transplant, and other pretty morbid procedures,” Okereke said.

Related: Detroit air quality ranks among world’s worst as wildfire smoke blankets Michigan

Okereke’s research has specialized in the health effects of pollution in urban areas. He said the same places where there have been clusters of bad air quality over the last 30 years in Detroit and Wayne County have also had clusters of lung-related diseases.

The Air Quality Index assigns real-time local ratings between 0 and 500. Values of 101 to 150 are unhealthy for sensitive groups with underlying conditions, while values 151 to 200 are unhealthy for the general population.

Michigan has had several communities grading above 200 this week. That’s a sign it’s dangerous to spend extended time outdoors, Okereke warned. When levels are this high, he “absolutely, 100%” recommends reconsidering plans that will place you outdoors for an extended period of time.

How long is too long to be outside? That’s not a direct science. Okereke said most healthy people without any lung disease can probably tolerate a few hours, but it’s going to vary by degree of air pollution and a person’s health history.

“There’s not really a clearcut set guideline on what amount of time is safe and what amount isn’t,” said Dr. Devang Doshi, a pulmonologist and allergist for Corewell Health in Royal Oak. “Most of us are of the thought that if numbers are very high and you can smell it and it looks foggy, you probably want to minimize your time outdoors.”

Okereke also declined to offer specific time limits for exposure, but suggested people use best judgement. Wearing a mask can help reduce exposure. If you begin feeling symptoms like difficulty breathing, a sore throat or cough, it’s a good idea to get inside.

For parents worried about their children, Doshi recommend treating the poor air quality like a rainy day and keeping kids indoors. If you decide to let them outside, Okereke suggested limiting their time outside and considering more frequent breaks instead of prolonged time outdoors.

Several Michigan doctors and hospital leaders noted increases in asthma complications, respiratory complaints and other related emergency room visits for breathing difficulties over the last week.

“We’ve seen both asthma and COPD patients, who have been well controlled, presenting with exacerbations requiring an increase in updrafts and steroids,” said Dr. Glen Clark, emergency center chief for Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe. “Even otherwise healthy individuals have come in complaining of chest tightness.”

The unhealthy smoke can cause problems for animals too. Michigan’s State Veterinarian’s Office suggests limiting your pets outdoor time when the air quality is poor. Officials also recommend avoiding strenuous activities and ensuring clean air flow indoors for your pets using fans, air conditioners and air purifiers.

Animals that are being negatively affected by breathing poor quality air may exhibit signs of illness, including coughing, wheezing, and having difficulties breathing. They may also have eye drainage, lethargy, changing in the sound of their vocalization, decreased appetite and third.

Michigan may be in for a smoky summer. MLive Meteorologist Mark Torregrossa said it will be hard to have a large enough wet pattern hit Canada this time of year to put out all of the fires. The usual upper-air wind flow is expected to blow over the wildfires and continue to push smoke into Michigan.

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