Ways to help inversion-related illnesses in pollution-ridden parts of Utah

Posted at 9:58 PM, Jan 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-12 22:29:33-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY -- As pollution and fog envelopes the valley for yet another day, it can make people feel sick with cold symptoms and leaves them running to the mountains or a doctor for relief.

Up in Big Cottonwood Canyon Friday afternoon, families spent time in the snow, sun and clear skies.

"We're happy to see sunshine!" exclaimed Kristen Weekes. She brought her kids up the canyon to go sledding and for, "fresh, clean air."

They needed an escape.

"We came up here to get out of the inversion, the yucky inversion that just seems so gloomy," Weekes said.

It's not just gloomy and gray to look at. She and hiker Tim Airmet described the sick symptoms they feel when breathing in the pollution for days at a time

Airmet said he's been dealing with a lingering cough that he can't get rid of.

"I still feel like I still have something in my lungs, and it's obviously because this is the air quality that I'm breathing every day," he said.

"Then I think it comes to a point, I think that people feel like they need to go in for a prescription for antibiotics to get over it," Weekes said.

Dr. Daniel Davis at the Intermountain Medical Center Taylorsville Instacare described how he usually sees people with ongoing health issues come in during inversions because those health problems worsen. Others may find they develop cold symptoms.

"Runny nose, and congestion," he said. "For some people, [they] get a little bit of a sore throat."

How can you tell if you're coming down with a sickness, or just breathing bad air?

Those who notice mild symptoms may just be experiencing the effects of the inversion, he indicated. More serious symptoms might be a sign of an infection.

"If you have a fever, that's an infection and a cold," Dr. Davis said. "Or if you feel sick-- the achy joints and muscles."

For those with an actual sickness such as a respiratory infection, he said he notices the inversion makes it harder to fight off.

"People come in a little bit sicker, or it drags on a little bit longer," Dr. Davis said.

He recommended avoiding the outdoors in the valley and running a humidifier at home to help relieve inversion-related cold symptoms. Over-the-counter medicine can help with some of the effects like runny noses, he added.

Airmet's strategy to kick his lingering cold-- hike above the gray mess. He climbed up to Mt. Olympus Friday evening.

"You get about 1,000 feet up and it's beautiful and sunny, and good air," he said.

Weekes and her kids found relief and fresh air, too, with their jaunt up Big Cottonwood Canyon.

"We got out of it," she said. "And guess what? It's a beautiful, beautiful day up here."

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