As B.C. continues to be blanketed in wildfire smoke from the U.S., the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is urging people to stay inside as air quality has deteriorated rapidly.
Much of southern and central B.C. has air quality worse than has been seen in recent years.
Fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, refers to airborne solid or liquid droplets with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres (µm) or less. PM2.5 can easily penetrate indoors because of its small size, and the drifting wildfire smoke impacts those levels.
Concentrations fine particulate matter of of the southern half of B.C. have skyrocketed into the high 100s, with areas in the Okanagan in the 200s and and the Kootenays seeing 300+ levels.
Although British Columbians have been encouraged to spend time outside for the past six months due to COVID-19, which spreads better indoors, poor air quality this week has led the CDC to encourage more time spent inside.
The CDC is encouraging people to “reduce your exposure to smoke and seek cleaner air” by going indoors, as well as:
- Use a portable HEPA air cleaner to filter the air in one area of your home
- Visit public spaces such as community centres, libraries, and shopping malls which tend to have cleaner, cooler indoor air
- Take it easy on smoky days because the harder you breathe, the more smoke you inhale
- Drink lots of water to help reduce inflammation
- If you are working outdoors, use an N95 respirator that has been properly fitted by occupational health and safety professionals.
People with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes and viral infections such as COVID-19 are at a higher risk for serious side effects. Pregnant women, the elderly, infants and small kids are also at a higher risk
The CDC said PM2.5 particles can be damaging to lungs because they travel deep inside when you inhale. Mild symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Eye irritation
- Runny nose
- Mild cough
- Phlegm production
- Wheezy breathing
However, if you develop more serious symptoms, you should talk to a health-care profession or call HealthLink BC at 811:
- Shortness of breath
- Severe cough
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
What about your pet?
According to the BC SPCA, your four-legged best friend can suffer from many the same issues due to wildfire smoke as you do. As pets are lower to the ground, they can be spared from some of the smoke that rises in the air. However, you should avoid vigorously exercising your pet and if you do have to take them outdoors, go in the early morning or late evening when heat is not an issue.
Pets should always have clean water and shade available, especially if they are outside.
Pet owners with dogs breeds that are brachycephalic – with shorter faces, such as pugs and French bulldogs – could have serious side effects from the smoke and should be watched closely.
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