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

Brian McFadden, vice-president of the Vancouver Island Military Museum, shows elements of a new exhibit there that examines some of the horrors and hardships for women and children in prison camps during First and Second World Wars. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Women in prison camps persevered

Letter writer shares her mother’s recollections of prison camp in Java during Second World War

A light display on Northumberland Avenue was recognized as one of the best in the city last year. (Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce photo)
Nanaimo’s Christmas light-up event renamed Illuminight

Judging will take place the evening of Dec. 13

News Bulletin file photo
Salvation Army asks for volunteers to help serve up Christmas dinners

Charity looking for help with preparing, packaging, serving and delivering meals

Potential locations of speed humps and curbs on Lost Lake Road. (City of Nanaimo image)
City of Nanaimo planning traffic-calming project on Lost Lake Road

Seventy-five per cent of respondents support measures to reduce speed on the road

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board is set to vote on a recommendation that would see Franklyn Street gym demolition. Pictured here, Nanaimo Fire Rescue staff on scene after a gym fire in October 2018. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school trustees to decide Franklyn Street gym’s fate

SD68 committee recommends demolishing gym, damaged by fire in October 2018

Numuch Keitlah, left, and Jake Thomas, centre, participate in a Coastal Nations search and rescue exercise off the coast of Vancouver Island in this undated handout photo. The recently operational Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary has more than 50 members from five Indigenous territories who are trained in marine search and rescue. They are on call day and night to respond to emergencies along some of B.C.’s most rugged and remote coastal areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Jordan Wilson *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canada’s first Indigenous-led coast guard auxiliary patrols B.C.’s rugged coast

Auxiliary is part of the feds’ $1.5 billion plan to improve marine safety and protect the environment

A map of Nanaimo displays the boundaries of the proposed new downtown business improvement area. (City of Nanaimo image)
Nanaimo city councillors recommending downtown improvement area be re-established

Finance and audit committee recommends council direct staff to start ‘petition-against’ process

An Oceana Canada audit of Canadian fish stocks reveals a growing number with critical populations, calling on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to enact existing commitments. (File photo)
B.C.’s declining fisheries the result of poor DFO management: audit

Oceana Canada calls for follow through on government commitments

Nanaimo Fire Rescue Chief Karen Fry will become the next fire chief of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services in the new year. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo’s fire chief hired to become Vancouver’s fire chief

Karen Fry calls the move a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity

James Corden on the Late Late Show talking about BC Ferries on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Screenshot)
‘You’ll see it when you see it’: BC Ferries mask graphic gains James Corden’s attention

Turns out, James Corden fans were just as quick as B.C. social media users to pick up on the dual imagery

Andrew Wilkinson addresses a BC Liberal Forestry Rally in Campbell River on Oct. 17, 2020.
Andrew Wilkinson quits as BC Liberal Leader, party to choose interim replacement

Wilkinson had previously said he would stay in his role till a new leader were to be selected

Most Read