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Wildfires causing breathing problems for many in the Northwest

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KOIN – PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A shift in the wind is pushing smoke from nearby wildfires into the Portland metro area. Doctors said even if you don't have health problems, the smoke can still affect you.

"I can definitely smell the smoke," Portland resident Leona Kindermann said.

‘Definitely smoky' — two words used together to describe most of the day in the city of roses.

"It's definitely not as beautiful with all of the smoke," Karin Velarde said. "I went out walking on my lunch break and it was kind of hard to breathe."

Winds are carrying thick, heavy smoke from numerous fires across the Northwest. While they may not be close in proximity to Portland, the smell lingers and it can have harmful effects on your health.

"As the dust particles increase, everybody can develop symptoms," Dr. Akram Khan said. "Even normal people during moderate exertion can start developing shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, allergy symptoms."

Many also experience irritated eyes and sinuses. For those who already suffer from seasonal allergies, smoky conditions can make things even worse.

"Children are more prone to problems," Dr. Kahn said. "Older individuals, as well as people with lung problems, may see more problems."

Despite the smoky conditions, most Portlanders said they're doing just fine.

"You can smell it in the air a little bit but overall I'm not having any problems breathing," runner Reed Miller said.

Experts said dust masks don't do much to protect you from smoky particulates, which are very fine and can easily get through the material.

One thing you can do to help yourself: make sure you're recirculating air conditioners in your home and car.