FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Hazy skies drape over the Central Valley on Friday, continuing a week of unhealthy air quality. Over the last few days, the air quality index has oscillated between 159 to 176. That’s worse than the air quality predicted in both China and India.

“When you step outside right now you don’t even see blue skies, you can’t even see the sun,” said Cassandra Melching of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. 

The region’s chronic pollution and smoke from the Northern California wildfires are to blame.

“I was planning to do some hiking this weekend and I decided not to do it,” shared allergist Dr. Malik Baz. 

Dr. Baz suggests following his lead – outdoor activity with this air quality is strongly discouraged, especially for those with respiratory problems and allergies.

“Make sure they take their medication properly, stay indoors, [and do] no exercise outdoors. If they have an air purifier at home, use the air purifier,” he said. 

“[Particulate Matter] 2.5 is a very harmful pollutant, all because it’s so small,” said Melching. “It can get into the bloodstream, and it can get deep into your lungs. It triggers asthma attacks, it aggregates chronic bronchitis and it can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.”

For those who can’t avoid staying outdoors, like farmworkers or construction workers, experts recommend wearing a wet cloth mask and drinking plenty of fluids.

Dr. Baz also points out the Valley’s unhealthy air quality can trigger symptoms similar to COVID-19.

“I have seen two patients in my own office, I was so sure they have allergies, no way they were gonna come back positive with Covid and I was wrong.”

He recommends getting tested if you have any suspicions you might’ve caught the virus. 

He also reminds people to beware of a false sense of security at night when you can’t see the smokey skies.

“Pollution is not like pollen or the heat. Unfortunately, it’s 24/7.”