San Diego County has been experiencing days of poor air quality, but the region's director of air pollution control says smoke from the nearby Valley Fire isn't to blame for the haze.
"The microscopic particles that we're seeing impacting our air quality is actually air pollution and smoke from regions to the north of us," said Robert Reider, Interim Director of San Diego County's Air Pollution Control District.
The West Coast is covered in a dense, ash-filled smog -- a mix of gases and fine particles from burning trees, plants and other material -- but the smoke can be seen stretching as far east as Michigan, according to the National Weather Service on Saturday.
"States in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, they're also experiencing these orange skies from California and the Pacific Northwest fires and so it's easily a national problem at this point," Reider said.
In San Diego, those hazy skies are expected to last for several more days, Reider said but for some areas of central California, relief may not come until October, according to Dan Borsum, the incident meteorologist for a fire in Northern California. And it's going to take heavy winds to clear all that smoke from the air.
NBC 7 Meteorologist Sheena Parveen said the poor air quality is especially difficult for sensitive groups like people with asthma, those with heart disease, the elderly, pregnant women and children.
The smoke can cause asthma attacks, wheezing, stinging eyes, scratchy throat, headaches, tiredness, chest pain and a fast heartbeat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The wildfire smoke can even make you more prone to lung infections like the virus that causes COVID-19.
That's because if inhaled, Reider said, smoke particles can attach inside the lungs and cause inflammation.
And because symptoms of the two can be so similar, the CDC recommends knowing the differences.
While wildfire smoke blankets the West Coast, the CDC said people should stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed as much as possible to protect themselves from inhaling the smoke. Limit outdoor excercise or choose lower-intensity activities to limit smoke exposure.
“If you have asthma or respiratory issues, I would not recommend being outside for long periods of time today,” Parveen advised.
Anyone who feels sick should call contact their local health care provider or call 211. Those with severe symptoms should call 911.
To see how fires are impacting your local region, click here.