Doctors warn to take Air Quality Index readings seriously, dangerous levels could cause lung damage

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- As diners sat outdoors in downtown San Jose Thursday afternoon, the Air Quality Index was at an unhealthy red at 150+.

Those we talked to were surprised to see the reading.

LIVE: Track Bay Area air quality levels

"You kind of readjusted, 150 isn't so bad anymore, if it bothers my eyes I'll go inside," said one diner.

For Richard, a delivery worker, he can definitely feel it, even if he has no choice but to work outside.

"It's bad, especially when you're running up and down, gets really hectic and you can't really breathe."

Dr. Katharine Nelson with the South Bay Allergy and Asthma group and Dr. Andra Blomkalns with Stanford Medicine advise that people take the readings more seriously.

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"I would say that 150 is very much like being in a house with someone who smokes significantly," said Dr. Blomkalns.

Dr. Katharine Nelson has asthma and also treats it. She says she doesn't take chances on poor air quality days.

"Several years ago I made the mistake of running during the 2017 fires and got incredibly sick for months."

She says poor air quality can trigger those with underlying medical conditions, cause lung damage and cause cardiovascular problems.

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"All of that particulate matter is definitely smoke inhalation, our AQI is in the 140-150 range which is extremely dangerous," she said.

Dr. Blomkalns worries that because the air doesn't smell as bad as being next to a fire, it gives a false sense of safety.

"You might smell it a little bit, you don't necessarily feel it but the cumulative effect over time does matter and does build up."

Go here for the latest updates on Bay Area air quality.
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