Wildfire smoke is impacting air quality in the Okanagan, Shuswap, Similkameen, Nicola and Columbia regions of B.C. Tuesday.
A smoky skies bulletin has been issued for the above regions, with wildfire smoke expected to impact the regions over the next 24 to 48 hours.
“During a wildfire, smoke conditions can change quickly over short distances and can vary considerably hour-by-hour,” reads an air quality bulletin, issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
“Wildfire smoke is a natural part of our environment but it is important to be mindful that exposure to smoke may affect your health.”
Those with pre-existing health conditions, respiratory infections such as COVID-19, older adults, pregnant women and infants, children, and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure.
During smoky conditions, follow the following tips:
• Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you feel unwell.
• Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
• If you have asthma or other chronic illness, carry any rescue (fast-acting) medications with you at all times and activate your personal care plan that has been designed with your family physician.
• Make sure that children and others who cannot care for themselves follow the same advice.
Monitor your symptoms:
• People respond differently to smoke. Mild irritation and discomfort are common, and usually disappear when the smoke clears.
• Exposure to wildfire smoke and the virus that causes COVID-19 can both result in 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.
• If you are unsure whether you need medical care, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1.
• If you are experiencing difficulty in breathing, chest pain or discomfort, or a severe cough, contact your health care provider, walk-in clinic, or emergency department. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
Here are some tips to reduce your smoke exposure:
• Smoke levels may be lower indoors but will still be elevated, so stay aware of your symptoms even when you are indoors.
• Running a commercially available HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter can improve indoor air quality in the room where the device is located.
• If you have a forced air heating/cooling system in your home, it may help to change the filter and set the fan to run continuously.
• Reduce indoor air pollution sources such as smoking, burning incense, and frying foods.
• If travelling in a car with air conditioning, keep the windows up and the ventilation set to recirculate.
• If you are very sensitive to smoke, consider moving to another location with cleaner air, but be aware that conditions can change rapidly.
• Maintaining good overall health is a good way to prevent health effects resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.