The Ministry of Environment has issued an Air Quality Advisory for Metro Vancouver because of particulate matter in the air coming from wildfires outside the region.
They advise that “Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. Staying indoors and in air conditioned spaces helps to reduce fine particulate exposure. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease.”
Here are some tips for staying safe and keeping your lungs healthy from the effects of smoke:
- Use common sense. If it looks smoky outside, it’s probably not a good time to do outdoor activities such as mowing the lawn or don’t exercise or let your children play outdoors.
- If you are advised to stay indoors, keep windows and doors closed. Stay cool and hydrated.
- Run your air conditioner if you have one. Keep the fresh air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent bringing additional smoke inside. If you don’t have an air conditioner, you can use an air cleaner with HEPA filter. There are also clean air shelters like the malls, libraries, and community centres where air conditioner units are running. Vancouver has designated libraries and community centres open to the public to cool off, and can be found here.
- Avoid smoking or using your wood burning appliances (i.e wood stove, wood fireplaces),candles or vacuum cleaners. Note: If you don’t have an air conditioner, staying inside with windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather. In these cases, seek clean air shelter such as shopping malls.
- If you have heart or lung disease, if you are an older adult, or if you have children, talk with your doctor about whether and when you should leave the area. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not be able to see them. If you have asthma or other chronic illness, you should activate optional use of your heart and respiratory medications. Protect yourself and follow your action plan.
- Check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) forecast for your area. The AQHI is a tool that indicates the immediate risks to health of current and near future levels of monitored air pollutants and offers health messages and guidance.
If you or someone you love experiences an asthma emergency or a COPD lung attack, call 911 and go to the nearest emergency department right away. Do not drive yourself. Take your fast acting (rescue) inhaler as necessary on your way to the hospital.