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B.C. wildfires are common during the summer months, resulting in poorer quality air. As air quality can change quickly due to warmer temperatures and smoke from wildfires, we are urging people in our communities to plan in advance to help minimize exposure to smoky air.

“As we anticipate our region will be impacted by wildfire smoke, I encourage those at higher risk to plan ahead, including identifying a place to go that has cleaner air ,” says Dr. Ingrid Tyler, Fraser Health executive medical director of Population and Public Health and medical health officer. “Wildfire smoke can travel long distances and can cause serious health effects in some people. Different people respond differently to wildfire smoke and some people are at higher risk of having health effects so it is important to be aware of people in your household who are more sensitive.”

Although wildfire smoke is different from air pollution caused by traffic or industry, it is also harmful to human health, especially in older adults, infants, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease. 

Help keep yourself and your loved ones safe by taking the following steps now, ahead of any potential exposure to smoky air:

  • Check your medications, especially rescue medications for breathing
  • Keep windows and doors closed if possible without overheating
  • Use a portable HEPA air cleaner
  • Stay hydrated
  • Reduce time spent outdoors and reduce strenuous activities, because breathing harder means inhaling more smoky air
  • Pay attention to air quality reports, especially the air quality health index
  • Spend time in a home or community space that can act as a clean air shelter, a space that has filtration to help reduce smoke exposure. Community clean air shelters can be found in many public buildings such as shopping malls, libraries and local community centres. These spaces have appropriate cooling and air filtration equipment that will protect people from experiencing irritating symptoms. Call your local municipality for information about public spaces in your community with clean air

People with pre-existing medical conditions should take extra precautions during this time, including monitoring for symptoms and keeping rescue medications with them when out. 

Common symptoms can include lung irritation, eye irritation, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, and mild cough. If you experience more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness, chest discomfort, heart palpitations, or wheezing, seek medical attention immediately. 

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