Officials at Interior Health say the best protection from the B.C. wildfire smoke is to reduce exposure altogether, noting masks often aren’t all that effective. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Looking for smoke protection? Masks likely won’t help

Interior Health officials say the best protection is to reduce exposure altogether

Interior Health is reminding people that the best way to avoid complications from wildfire smoke is to reduce exposure altogether, after reportedly receiving numerous questions about the efficacy of masks.

According to an IH release on Friday, masks aren’t without limitations — particularly, paper dust masks sold in stores don’t protect from smoke particles, the health authority says.

Specialized masks, called N95 respirators, too, aren’t ideal, according to IH, which says the masks need to be properly fitted to each user for proper protection. That takes 20-30 minutes with the guidance of professionals, IH says.

Breathing in those masks is also more difficult, which can, in itself, be a concern for people with respiratory issues, IH said, adding no certified N95 respirators are on the market that fit the faces of children.

The masks also stop working when saturated with water or sweat, according to the release.

That’s not to say the masks aren’t useful for anybody — IH notes the masks are fine for people who work outside, provided they are properly fit by a professional.

“The best thing people can do is monitor the air quality in their area, take the steps to reduce smoke exposure and monitor their symptoms,” the IH release says.

Among the actions recommended:

  • When at home ensure that air conditioners are on recirculate and consider using a portable air cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter or an electrostatic precipitator
  • Keep windows and doors closed when possible
  • Seek out public spaces with cleaner air, such as shopping malls or community centres
  • Limit your time outside
  • Reduce activity in smoky environments: the harder you breathe, the more smoke you inhale
  • Stay cool, drink plenty of water

Officials say smoke affects each person differently depending on health, age and exposure.

Most at risk are those with underlying medical conditions, including asthma, COPD, heart disease or diabetes. It’s also a concern for pregnant women, infants, young children and the elderly.

“When smoke levels become very high, even healthy people can be affected and everyone should be monitoring their systems and taking appropriate action to protect their health.”

Among the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain and discomfort
  • Coughing
  • Irritated eyes, nose, and throat

Those experiencing symptoms are asked to contact their doctor or check in at a walk-in clinic. Those with severe symptoms are asked to seek emergency medical attention.

More information can be found on the Interior Health website.

Just Posted

North Okanagan indigenous student award winners

Scholarship program rewards 457 students across province

Local donations lift college trades facility

George Galbraith and Kal Tire each donate $250,000 to new Okanagan College trades training centre

RCMP seek missing man

Blake Doyle was last seen Dec. 2

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

SilverStar shines

Vernon’s mountain resort lights up for Christmas

Fans litter ice with teddy bears for charity

Annul Vernon Vipers Teddy Bear Toss B.C. Hockey League game

Liberal Hogg wins South Surrey-White Rock byelection over Conservative Findlay

B.C. riding to be represented by non-conservative for first time in decades

Writing her way to recovery

Shuswap author finds healing and well-being by writing

Six-year-old boy needs $19,000 a month to treat rare form of arthritis

Mother of sick Sooke boy asks government to help fund treatments

Environmental groups slam NDP decision to continue with Site C

Construction industry, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about how the project will look

Be ladder safe both at work and home

WorkSafeBC wants you to keep safe while hanging those Christmas lights this year

B.C. overdose deaths surpass 1,200

96 people died of illicit drug overdoses in October

North Westside director travels

The Regional District of Central Okanagan board has agreed to Wayne Carson attending conferences

A classic Christmas play with a Kelowna twist

Scrooge is transported to Kelowna in New Vintage Theatre’s new holiday play, opening Wednesday

Most Read