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Got sniffles? Is it due to poor air quality or COVID-19?

Posted at 8:40 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 23:28:46-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Over the past few weeks, more and more Utahns are sharing questions and concerns (primarily on social media) wondering if the symptoms they are experiencing are related to the inversion or COVID-19.

Health experts at Intermountain Healthcare typically see an increase in patients with infections such as pneumonia or asthma flair-ups days or even weeks after a long-term inversion event begins.

“The air pollution makes you more likely to get an infection,” said Dr. Denitza Blagev, a pulmonary physician at Intermountain Healthcare. “Periods of air pollution increase the risk of pneumonia [and] bronchitis. This was true pre-COVID and this is true with COVID as well, so definitely having higher air pollution makes you seem more worried about getting sick.”

Inversion conditions in northern Utah have been prevalent for days, if not weeks to start the New Year. It’s during the winter inversion where a lot of people are more susceptible to infection as contributed by air pollution.

“We’re setting records with COVID numbers so if you have any symptoms, you want to assume that everybody has COVID and you might have COVID, so if you have any symptoms, I would say that’s the better assumption than saying, ‘Oh, it’s the air quality,’” said Dr. Blagev.

READ: Nearly 40,000 new COVID cases reported in Utah over holiday weekend

Since testing equipment and resources are in short supply, Dr. Blagev recommends people who are immunocompromised and are experiencing symptoms continue to get tested. She says that others who are not in a high-risk group should consider forgoing a test if they feel it’s best to quarantine and recover on their own versus using a test that could better serve someone who requires treatment.