Is illness or poor air quality causing that cough?

Feb 6, 2023, 11:00 AM | Updated: Feb 7, 2023, 8:46 am

When inversions bring pollution to the ground, we breathe it in. That makes it easier to get sick a...

Utah is again being subject to inversion. Is that cough an illness or due to unhealthy air? (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — When inversions trap dirty air over Utah, how do you know when your cough comes from the gunky air or something else?

Intermountain Health Respiratory and Critical Care Physician Denitza Blagev said COVID and inversion-related health problems are two different things.

Conditions like COVID, the flu, a cold and RSV all exist outside of an inversion. Same with chronic conditions like asthma or COPD.

When inversions bring pollution to the ground, we breathe it in. That makes it easier to get sick and can make current conditions worse. 

No matter your health right now, those pollutants will affect your breathing. 

According to, health impacts of poor air quality include respiratory issues like wheezing and coughing, shortness of breath, asthma attacks, worsening COPD and even lung cancer.

Utah inversions

Utah has been in the thick of recent inversions. According to, a typical winter in the sees about five to six multi-day inversion episodes and on for an average of 18 days. 

To keep track of current air quality, go to


Amie Schaeffer contributed to this article.

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Is illness or poor air quality causing that cough?