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Wildfire smoke has settled over St. Louis, here's what that means for your health

Area lung specialists advise limiting outdoor activity during peak times.

ST. LOUIS — The beautiful weather is certainly bringing people outside, but there is a hidden danger lurking in the air around us. Air quality issues continued Thursday.

Once again, the St. Louis Clean Air Partnership has an air quality alert up for the St. Louis area. The Orange - Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups warning is posted through 8 p.m. Thursday.

In their alert, the St. Louis Clean Air Partnership says, "fine particulate concentrations are expected to reach levels that pose a health risk. Adverse health effects increase as air quality deteriorates. Ground-level fine particulates are an air contaminant which can cause breathing difficulties for children, older adults, as well as persons with respiratory problems.'

Mercy Virtual Care Physician and Lung Specialist Dr. Steven Brown provided some advice for people to stay healthy.

"If you have the option and the opportunity not to be outside during the heaviest times of the day, when it's the hottest and when the air pollution is at the highest, towards the mid-afternoon and later afternoon, you should try to stay inside and avoid activities during those times."

Dr. Brown's advice is hard to follow on days like Thursday. Steve Thiest took advantage of the comfortable temperatures to golf in Forest Park. 

"If you are outside and you are around trees and sunshine, I think that's a good place to be," he said.

But it's trees — not our trees but the ones on fire in Canada — that are causing a problem. 

"It just looks like a sci-fi movie with how hazy and yellow it is," Forest Shipp told 5 On Your Side about the images coming out of the east coast.

Wildfire haze, while not that bad, has made its way to St. Louis. 

"There's not a whole lot of difference between cigarette smoke and wildfire smoke when it gets to the lungs," said Missouri Baptist Medical Center Pulmonologist Dr. Shiraz Daud. 

Levels of smoke particulates are high enough to pose a health risk. Dr. Daud said for patients with asthma, emphysema or other lung diseases, poor air quality can cause long-term issues. 

"It can actually cause their lungs to age prematurely and for even healthy patients, if they really are exposed to this long, long periods of time, it can lead to long-term effects in the future," Dr. Daud said.

Not all parkgoers took it easy Thursday, but Jenna Scott did.

"I'd say keep it to walking probably." 

That's advice that the doctors would agree with.

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