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Smoky skies: Air quality worsens this week in Puget Sound region

SEATTLE - The smoky skies are going to get worse over the next couple of days.

At Gas Works Park with this three little boys, dad David Totten and his kids are kicking soccer balls and enjoying a picnic in the park with the smoky backdrop over the Seattle skyline.

“We’re just out here playing ball, enjoying the weather,” said Totten. “When you first come down, you can’t even see the skyline,” he added.

The weather is a little hard to enjoy with smoke. That poor air quality now has the Seattle-metro area dotted in red meaning the air is unhealthy. The cause of the smoky skies is a combination of the wildfires up north in Canada, the wildfires in Eastern Washington and the wildfires down in California trapping the air.

“This time everything came together. We have massive fires in British Columbia, quite a few close in eastern Washington and at the same time we have this inversion that capped the smoke right over us,” said Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

The hovering smoke made tourists wonder what Seattle actually looks like.

“Someone told us there are mountains over there,” said Monica Stern visiting Seattle from Wisconsin with her family.

The local Seattleites say the unhealthy air makes staying healthy tough.

“I feel a burning sensation in my throat and my chest feels wheezy,” said one runner.

“I ran outside today, I felt heavier, I felt like I was in a campfire afterword. Definitely feel it,” said Totten.

He says he’ll use masks for his kids and limit their time outdoors when the air is this bad.

“It’s really hard when it’s hot and muggy to keep the kids inside we don’t have air conditioning. We always try to keep them down in the basement, we try and do a lot of at home games,” said Totten.

For now, it’s a couple kicks, a short picnic in the park under a smoky sunset in Seattle that makes people wonder if this is the new normal for August.

“It’s going to get better but it’s not over yet,” said Mass.

The Washington Department of Health says smoke can cause coughing, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, stinging eyes, and runny nose.

The health department also suggests not to add to indoor air pollution. Don’t use food boilers, candles, incense, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Don’t vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Don’t smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.

Consider leaving the area if the air quality is poor and it's not possible to keep indoor air clean, especially if you or those you are caring for are having health problems or are in a sensitive group. See section above titled, who is especially sensitive to smoke.

If you cannot leave the smoky area or find other ways to reduce your exposure, certain types of face masks can provide some protection. Respirator masks labeled N95 or N100 filter out fine particles but not hazardous gases (such as carbon monoxide). These masks can be found at many hardware and home repair stores and pharmacies. Face masks will not work for everyone.

Masks do not work on people with beards because they do not seal well enough to provide protection.

Masks are not currently approved for infants or small children.

Anyone with lung disease, heart disease, or who is chronically ill should consult a healthcare provider before using a mask. Wearing a mask makes it more difficult to breathe, which may worsen existing medical conditions

More information on the health effects and tips from unhealthy air quality can be found here.