VANCOUVER — Wildfire smoke has so far not made its way to Metro Vancouver this summer, but one of the health authorities that serves the region is urging residents to prepare for smoky skies now.
Air quality can change quickly during the summer months, Fraser Health said in a news release Tuesday. The health authority stretches from Burnaby to Boston Bar, serving several cities in Metro Vancouver, as well as the Fraser Valley.
“As we anticipate our region will be impacted by wildfire smoke, I encourage those at higher risk to plan ahead, including identifying a place to go that has cleaner air,” said Dr. Ingrid Tyler, Fraser Health’s executive medical director of population and public health, in the release.
“Wildfire smoke can travel long distances and can cause serious health effects in some people,” Tyler added. “Different people respond differently to wildfire smoke and some people are at higher risk of having health effects so it is important to be aware of people in your household who are more sensitive.”
The health authority recommends checking medications, especially rescue medications for breathing, to ensure an adequate supply is available now, before any potential exposure to smoky air.
Fraser Health also recommends keeping windows and doors closed, if possible, using a portable HEPA air cleaner, staying hydrated, reducing strenuous activity and time spent outdoors, and paying attention to air quality reports in the coming days.
Wildfire smoke can be especially harmful to older adults, infants, young children, people who are pregnant and people with chronic conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease, according to the health authority.
Common effects of wildfire smoke can include lung irritation, eye irritation, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, and mild cough, Fraser Health said, adding that those who experience severe symptoms – such as shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness, chest discomfort, heart palpitations or wheezing – should seek medical attention immediately.
As of Wednesday, there were 299 fires burning across B.C., and more than 1,100 had been sparked so far this wildfire season.
More information on wildfire smoke and the health risks associated with it can be found on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.