Smoke from wildfires burning in the U.S. fills the air as people ride bikes down the road at Cypress Provincial Park, in West Vancouver, B.C,, on Saturday, September 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Smoke from wildfires burning in the U.S. fills the air as people ride bikes down the road at Cypress Provincial Park, in West Vancouver, B.C,, on Saturday, September 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Here’s how you and your pet can stay safe from the wildfire smoke blanketing B.C.

Concentrations of fine particulate matter of of the southern half of B.C. have skyrocketed

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.

VIDEO: Drone footage of smoky skies over Cultus Lake

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
  • Headaches

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
  • Dizziness
  • 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.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

wildfire smokeWildfires

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crews had a lot to clean up and they are still working (file photo)
Power restored for the Valley after winter storm

All Bella Coola customers are now out of the dark

Highway 20 is now open but conditions are still challenging (Dawson Road Maintenance photo)
Some customers still without power as additional crews brought in to help

Trees continued to fall onto lines even after the actual storm had passed

The exposure occurred on 24th, 25th, & 26th November 2020, and affects Grade 7, 8, 9, 10 (file photo)
COVID-19 case confirmed at Acwsalcta School

The exposure occurred on 24th, 25th, & 26th November 2020, and affects Grade 7, 8, 9, 10.

A convoy of vehicles passes through Heckman Pass on Highway 20 as cleanup operations continued Saturday. Dawson Road Maintenance is asking motorists to watch for crews and equipment working throughout the area. (Dawson Road Maintenance photo/Facebook)
Highway 20 reopens between Anahim Lake and Bella Coola after winter storm Friday

“We appreciate your patience as we continue to clear wood debris and widen sections of the road.”

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Most Read