Inversion conditions in Utah worse than ever; area hospitals see spike in patients

Posted at 8:45 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 23:44:13-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- There's never been an inversion quite like this one, according to one University of Utah researcher.

"It's the worst inversion I've ever seen in the middle of February," said Professor Erik Crosman of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences with the University of Utah.

Crosman has been studying Utah inversions for the last ten years. He said this one is the perfect storm as it's unseasonably warm in the mountains and cold in the valley.

"So that combination, basically it's a lid, warm air rises, cold air sinks, and you can't get any of our cold polluted air out of our basins," Crosman said.

These gray skies have had a direct impact on hospitals and urgent cares, which have seen a 30 percent increase in patients during the last few days.

"Cough, shortness of breath, bronchitis, wheezing, that kind of thing," said Dr. Denitza Blogev of Intermountain Medical Center.

She said children, seniors and people with respiratory problems are most vulnerable. However, over time, everyone who goes out in this haze is jeopardizing their long-term health.

"People who live in high air pollution areas and have higher air pollution exposure have a higher risk of developing asthma, developing chronic lung disease, actually have heart attacks and increased risk of dying," Blogev said.

Keira Young has lived in Utah most of her life. She visited an urgent care on Friday for what she thought was an ear infection.

"It just hurts, it itches, and I came here to see what was the matter with it and hopefully they can fix it," Young said.

Her doctor said the pain is being caused by the inversion.

"That was amazing, that's what the doctor said: that this has been going on, a lot of people have been having this problem," Young said. "I never thought about that being the cause of the problem, I've never had a problem before."

Intermountain Medical Center said the best way to avoid getting sick is to stay in doors as much as possible. For instance, instead of exercising outside, they say try to do it indoors.