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Wildfire smoke prompts air quality advisory for Okanagan, Shuswap

Other impacted regions include Similkameen, Nicola and Columbia
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A view of smoke in the air in Vernon Tuesday morning, Aug. 15, 2023. (Submitted photo)

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.

READ MORE: Fire crews making process on blaze outside Kamloops despite heat

READ MORE: Hawaii works to identify 99 dead after Maui wildfires as search intensifies


Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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