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Smoke and wind bedevil allergy sufferers

The day after strong winds caused dust storms and fanned fires around the state, local allergy and asthma clinics are dealing with phones that have been "ringing non-stop," despite summer winds that cleared out much of the smoke.

Intermountain Allergy and Asthma allergist David Gourley said that their phone lines were tied up Friday with people complaining of being ill with asthma. He said that while the triggers for asthma and allergies vary, smoke is one aggravation that is "certainly on everyone's list." He said pollution and pollens are other major factors.

"The pollens in the tumbleweed family have been particularly high and there are meteorological changes," he said. "There are a combination of things acting up and really causing problems for patients."

Wildfire smoke that blew into the valley and settled in Thursday night is the kind of atmosphere change that often causes problems, LDS Hospital spokesman Jess Gomez said.

"Any time the air is compromised due to inversion, wildfires or smoke, we do see an increased number of patients with respiratory problems seeking help," Gomez said.

Gomez said people most often seek help first at a physician's office or some sort of respiratory clinic before they go to emergency rooms. Gourley said the best way to avoid asthma issues in time of poor air quality is to stay inside where there are air conditioners to circulate the air.

Arden Pope, a BYU professor considered to be an expert on air pollution, said that air quality reports showed a spike in pollutants Thursday night, but by Friday, the air quality was "very clear." Pope said that while the wind can bring in dust, it also can prevent the air from settling and holding pollution.

"The large wind-blown dust stuffs don't have a large health effect, because most of it we filter out in our upper airways," Pope said.

He said smoke from wildfires is often a problem, but that the summer winds can clear them out before they cause too many issues.

"In the summertime here we don't have inversion and the winds are blowing around the things that trap pollution," Pope said. "Frankly, the air out there is quite clear."