wildfire
File photo (BC Wildfire Service)

BC wildfires continue and, unfortunately, the poor air quality and the conditions are expected to worsen.

While the wildfire smoke hasn’t reached Vancouver Island yet, the province has issued a health warning to BC residents.

With a number of evacuation orders and alerts in place across BC, residents are urged to exercise caution and remain vigilant to help prevent human-caused wildfires.

The province also reported that seasonal wildfire smoke may have longer-lasting impacts on people’s health.

See also: BCCDC offers tips for possible return of wildfire smoke on Vancouver Island

Smoke particles irritate the airway, and for people with a history of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), lung cancer, or heart problems, exposure to wildfires can exasperate and increase the risk of infections for children, infants, the elderly, and those who are pregnant or have chronic illness.

Exposure to air pollution can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation and alter your immune response. This can make it harder for your body to fight respiratory infections such as COVID-19.

Exposure to wildfire smoke and the virus that causes COVID-19 can result in both respiratory symptoms, such as a dry cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing. Use the BC COVID-19 self-assessment tool to help determine whether you need further assessment or testing for COVID-19.

It is recommended to seek medical attention promptly if you do experience more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness, chest pain or heart palpitations.

The best way to protect yourself from the effects of wildfire smoke is to reduce your exposure by sheltering in place.

The province has provided some tips for breathing easier during wildfire smoke events:

  • Reduce the amount of time spent outdoors, stay hydrated, and avoid vigorous outdoor activities and exercise.
  • When indoors, keep the air clean indoors by keeping windows/doors closed, avoiding smoking or burning fireplaces/candles/incense and not vacuuming.
  • Keep your indoor air cleaner by closing your windows, recirculating air through a forced air system and using an air cleaner.
  • You can also consider using a portable air cleaner that uses HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration to remove smoke from the indoor air.
  • In a vehicle, keep windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate.
  • Visit places with air conditioning, such as shopping malls, community centres, swimming pools, public libraries, etc., as they often have cleaner, cooler air than smaller buildings or the outdoors, while following COVID-19 guidance for those communal spaces.
  • For those who require rescue medications, especially for respiratory conditions like asthma, ensure you have sufficient supplies on hand for when conditions are smoky.
  • If you cannot access cleaner air, some face masks can provide protection from wildfire smoke.
  • Visit HealthLinkBC call 811 (non-emergency), see a healthcare professional, or call 911 (emergency) if you’re experiencing symptoms, including difficulty breathing and cardiovascular distress.
  • Pay attention to local air quality reports.
  • Smoky skies bulletins are posted here.

For more information visit the BCCDC here. 

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