UPDATE: Many of you experienced the thick smoke early Monday morning and for some the quick walk to their car seemed unbearable. Mail carriers are scrambling to deliver last minute election and political mail today, while construction workers are working on a deadline. They can't escape the wildfire smoke blanketing parts of the Tennessee Valley, they've  got a job to do.

"Yea at some point this morning it was a little hard to breathe," said Project Manager James Langer, Geostabilization International. "The guys pulled up and it was obviously pretty smoky at the top of the hill here." 

Langer has a construction crew working around the clock atop Cameron Hill in downtown Chattanooga.  He says the Wildfire smoke made it difficult for workers to see their job site and that can be dangerous. Workers had to take extra precautions and they want drivers to slow down too, especially around construction zones. 

"Slow down, pay attention to the traffic signs and make sure you're getting on the highway the proper way." said Langer. "I'm proud to be a part of an organization and a project that works hard every day no matter the conditions. We we were out here in the middle of the summer with over 100 degree severe humidity so this is just another condition that we have to deal with to get the job done." 

Postal workers have got a big job to do by Tuesday's election. They're working through the smoke, rain or shine. 

"The safety of our employees is of the utmost concern to us, we are closely monitoring conditions in the areas affected by the forrest fire," said Susan Wright, U.S Postal Services Spokesperson." The United States Postal Service takes its role in delivering election and political mail to our customers very seriously. We will continue to deliver the high volumes coming through our system and are experienced in adjusting to time changes as the holidays approach." 

Nurse Practitioner, Leigh Anne Calhoun says wildfire smoke is different than breathing in dust or mold because the fine particles in the smoke are too small to by filtered out of our lungs. Pollutants can get into your respiratory system and cause inflammation deep inside of your airways. 

"This morning we've had multiple phone calls and sick work in visits as a direct result of this smoke," Nurse Practitioner Leigh Anne Calhoun, Covenant Allergy and Asthma Care.

Officials say older adults, pregnant women, children and anyone with a preexisting respiratory or heart condition may be more likely to get sick.

"Don't forget to check on your elderly neighbors, they may not realize what's going on and they may not have someone to check on them," said Calhoun " Think about your neighbors as well."

If you have shortness of breath or any tightness in your chest, you should get help immediately. 

"Patients are having increased runny nose, irritated itchy eyes, coughing, chest pain, wheezing and those types of symptoms," said Calhoun. "You just need to monitor your symptoms, if you have increased asthma symptoms definitely seek attention from your provider." 

Doctors say you should avoid any outdoor exercises for now and kids with asthma should not be outside in the affected areas at all.

PREVIOUS STORY: As a heavy smoke covers most of the Tennessee Valley, people with allergies and asthma, as well as respiratory issues, may experience some trouble from the smoke.

Dr. Susan Raschal of Covenant Allergy and Asthma Care tells Channel 3 that forest fires release the second-largest source of particulate matter from wood smoke.  

The emissions of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and other pollutants can travel large distances. Small particles are more dangerous and can reach the respiratory system causing symptoms, even in those who do not suffer from respiratory and cardiac diseases.  

At-risk populations include young children, the elderly and those with heart and lung conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.  

Symptoms include irritated eyes, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, chest pain and/or tightness. Covenant Allergy and Asthma Care has seen an increase in asthma and rhinitis exacerbations and an increased need for medications.  

The to protect yourself and your loved ones include the following:

  • Remain indoors
  • Monitor air quality
  • Wear masks with HEPA filter
  • Avoid outdoor exercise
  • Use air conditioning on recirculate
  • Close windows, doors and fireplace dampers. 
  • For asthmatics, follow Asthma Action Plans and monitor symptoms. 
  • Use air purifiers with HEPA filtration
  • Check on your elderly neighbors and friends
  • Should symptoms worsen, seek medical attention
  • When returning from outside, change clothes to minimize continued exposure