Smoky skies and health

The forest fire smoke that has filled Okanagan skies in recent weeks affects people differently based on their health, age and exposure.

Residents with questions about that impact can currently find answers on the Interior Health website under "Your Health and Living with Smoky Skies."

Included in the advice is to use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity, if breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce the activity. If you experience irritation of eyes, nose or throat, shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms, take action to reduce your exposure. If symptoms worsen, contact a medical professional. Concentrations of smoke can change dramatically within short distance and short periods of time. Let your symptoms be your guide.

Smoke levels may be lower indoors; however, because gases and the smallest particles found in smoke can penetrate buildings, levels of smoke indoors will not be zero. If you stay indoors be aware of heat exposure or visit a location like a shopping mall with cooler filtered air.

Staying indoors may help you stay cool and provide some relief from the smoke, however, many air conditioning systems do not filter the air or improve indoor air quality. Commercially available HEPA, (high efficiency particulate air), filters can further reduce poor indoor air quality near the device. Keep indoor air cleaner by avoiding smoking or burning other materials.

The Air Quality Health Index may not be the best source of information during a forest fire. During forest fires, smoke plumes may affect entire valleys or a relatively small area.

Additional to the above, conditions may vary dramatically by area or elevation and you may be able to reduce your exposure by moving to cleaner air. Residents with asthma or chronic illness should activate their asthma or personal care plan. Pay attention to local air quality reports, air quality may be poor even though smoke may not be visible. Those with symptoms should seek medical attention by visiting their doctor, a walk-in clinic or the emergency department, depending on the severity of symptoms.

More information is available at  www.interiorhealth.ca.



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