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Air quality unhealthy in Hamilton

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HAMILTON, Mont. - For weeks western Montanans have coped with coughing, burning eyes and more severe symptoms from smoke that's settled across our region. More sensitive people are staying indoors. Air quality is bad throughout the area.

On Tuesday afternoon the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office said the air monitoring station in Hamilton shows the air quality is unhealthy. The recommendation is for active children and adults and people with respiratory disease to avoid prolonged outdoor exertion, especially kids.

Ravalli County Public Health director Angie Allen said sensitive groups can have exacerbated and more severe symptoms that can be both short- and long-term.

"It's not good for you," she said. "We do encourage if you have some symptoms that you stay inside with the windows shut and to reduce your exposure as much as you possibly can."

NBC Montana met Telesha Hochstetler where she was working out at her athletic club. She wants to build muscle and lung power.

The smoke bothers her.

"Our house is shut up," she said. "We're running multiple air cleaners. The smoke gives me a sinus headache."

Hochstletler is an avid horsewoman. But she hasn't been riding. She said her horses are sensitive to smoke too.

We met Kevin Lyons and Russell Vincent outside Hamilton. The builders are working on a new house.

The men moved fast despite the smoke. They were exerting a lot of energy into their job. They're both young and healthy. But they said the smoke saps their energy too.

"It does," said Lyons. "It really takes a lot out of you at the end of the day. You feel like you're not breathing as well."

Vincent agreed. "You're pretty wore out," he said, "I wake up coughing a bit, because the smoke does get a little intense at times."

The men said the smoke is keeping the sun from beating down too hard, and when it clears out everything is fine.

But for weeks the mountains on all sides have been shrouded in smoke and invisible at times.

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