DENVER (CBS4) – 2020 has a new health challenge: the air that we breathe. Just when you thought it was better to be outside, smoke from Colorado wildfires is driving people inside.

“I’ve been suffering asthma and coughing all day. It’s been horrendous,” said Maureen Marshall, who lives in the Denver metro area.

She deals with severe asthma daily, but Tuesday when it got bad, simply opening a door led to trouble.

(credit: CBS)

“I’ve not had an attack like that in a long time,” she said.

Grizzly Creek Fire

Grizzly Creek Fire (credit: CBS)

The smoke is coming mostly from the Grizzly Creek Fire near Glenwood Springs and the Pine Gulch Fire on the Western Slope.

It’s hitting some of the high country harder than the Front Range, but it is causing trouble for people in the larger metro areas.

“These tiny little fine particles are much more effective at getting deep, deep, into the lung into the air sacs of the lung where they can cause irritation deep into the lung,” says Dr. David Beuther, chief medical information officer at National Jewish Health.

“This is a particular problem for people with chronic heart and lung disease, but even for those of us who are healthy with enough exposure we can get symptoms like cough or wheeze or feel more short of breath,” Dr. Beuther said.

People like Maureen know to stay inside. For most healthy people, it’s not severe enough yet to drive us entirely indoors, or away from exercise.

“If you’re generally healthy and don’t have a heart or lung condition it’s perfectly fine to exercise in this kind of condition,” says Dr. Beuther. But he does suggest cutting back on big plans for athletes.

Beuther says it’s possible there could be an increased risk of COVID-19 cases because smoking is a known risk, but he does not expect to see a noticeable rise in numbers.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says the air on Wednesday will be moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups in the Denver metro area. They are suggesting people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

Alan Gionet

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