SPOKANE, Wash. -

A layer of smoke is hanging over Spokane and it may be here for a while, and as a result an air quality alert in effect until Monday for Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.

Spending a prolonged period of time outside in the smoke is not a good idea with the biggest health threat coming from the fine particles in the smoke. These can cause burning eyes, a runny nose, bronchitis and other illnesses.

People with any type of heart or lung problems are really feeling the effects of the smoke.

"Definitely has like a pressure if anyone has asthma you can feel it,” said April Belnat, a Spokane resident with asthma.

For the past few days, Belnat has made sure she doesn't go anywhere without her asthma inhaler.

"Thankfully mine's not too bad, but I do have family and friends that can't even leave the house because the smoke is just too bad,” she said.

Staying inside is exactly what is recommended for people with these types of illnesses; the elderly and young children are also at a high risk.

"Some people might have trouble breathing, or start coughing or wheezing or something like that,” said Mark Rowe from the Spokane Regional Clean Air agency.

Rowe has been monitoring the air quality and said it's uncommon for Spokane to reach these levels.

"The last time the smoke was this bad was two years ago during 2012 wildfire season,” said Rowe.

It's likely we'll have smoke in the air for several days.

"Air quality will remain poor today, and then after today we expect a slow improvement so gradually over the next few days it should improve at least we're hoping it will,” said Rowe.

Rowe also recommends people reduce their outdoor physical activity until smoke levels decrease. Depending on how quickly the wildfires to the west are contained we could see smoke over the Spokane area for more than a week.