All you need to know about the current air quality in BC

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Currently, there are air quality advisories for BC, Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan due to the BC wildfires. Follow the necessary precautions to take care of what matters most and avoid illness or injury.

What are the risks?

Poor air quality can lead to allergy-like symptoms including:

  • Headaches and fatigue

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation

  • Wheezing and heightened effects of asthma, particularly for children and the elderly

 Photo by 9nong/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by 9nong/iStock / Getty Images

The risk of respiratory and cardiovascular issues increases over time with continued exposure. Some people may experience more severe symptoms, like shortness of breath, dizziness coughing, or chest pain. If it's an emergency, immediately dial 9‑1‑1. If you'd like advice, call HealthLink/HealthLine at 8‑1‑1 or talk to your doctor.

 

What should you do?

  1. Stay indoors as much as possible. Avoid exercising outside; instead, head to a mall or gym.

  2. Drive with the windows up. Use air conditioning if you have it and set it to recirculate.

  3. Entertain children inside. Limit the amount of time children spend playing outdoors; young lungs are sensitive.

  4. Check air advisories often. Don’t rely solely on what it looks like outside.

  5. Be vigilant with breathing-related medications. If you have asthma or a lung-related illness, stay on top of your medications. See your doctor if you need to discuss dosage.

  6. Invest in an air purifier. A good air purifier will reduce particle levels inside your home.

  7. Above all, make your health and safety a priority.

Here’s a few interesting comments from Medical professional through Global and CBC news:

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Dr. Bonnie Henry says there is a lot of “confusion” surrounding the impacts of the smoke, and wants to assure people there won’t be any major issues down the road.

“Despite the fact it has been going on for several weeks, we really do see this as a short-term exposure compared to the day in, day out exposures that others have,” said Henry. “So for the vast majority of people when the skies clear, these symptoms of irritation and shortness of breath are going to go away and most of us will be absolutely fine.”

Henry says the smoky air makes it harder to get oxygen into the blood, and normally-healthy people can have symptoms including eye irritation, sore throats, running nose, cough and wheezy breathing. There will be some people who will feel long-term effects from the smoke if it irritates underlying conditions.

Infants, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions are being told it is recommended they stay inside.

According to the app “Sh**t! I Smoke,” the air quality in Vancouver today is equivalent to smoking 9.5 cigarettes a day. But Henry says the smoke produced by a wildfire is different than cigarette smoke or smoke produced in cities known for heavy air pollution.

“Wildfire smoke is different from other air pollution. So we have seen comparisons to cities like Beijing and Delhi. But air pollution is caused by vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions and has other components to it that are also harmful to human health,” said Henry. “While wildfire smoke does certainly has health effects, it is not the same as ongoing exposure to long term pollution like we do in some of these cities.”

Health officials are discouraging strenuous activity outdoors for everyone — be they athletes or not — while the air quality advisory remains in place.

"Heavier breathing will allow more air pollution to enter the lungs," said Hedieh Hafizi a clinical exercise physiologist at Copeman Healthcare.

"Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body's oxygen supply and can cause respiratory irritation such as shortness of breath, and it can also aggravate any preexisting medical conditions," Hafizi said.