With much of the province expected to be under a smoky haze this weekend, the Interior Health Authority is encouraging residents and visitors in the South Okanagan to take precautions to protect their health.
Skies in the South Okanagan today are expected to produce a “moderate health risk.” That risk is currently at Level 4 (our of 10). It is expected to increase to Level 6 through the weekend.
For most people, that means there’s no need to modify your usual outdoor activities unless you experience symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation, according to the province’s Air Quality Health Index.
However, if you’re a member of an at-risk population, you should consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous activities outdoors if you are experiencing symptoms.
“The best way to cope with smoke pollution is to be prepared and take measures to reduce your exposure to smoke,” the Health Region notes.
“Smoke affects everyone differently, based on their health, age, exposure, and other personal factors. Smoke exposure can be particularly concerning for those who have underlying medical conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, or diabetes. Infants, young children, the elderly, and pregnant women can also be affected.
Here are some ways you can reduce the health risks associated with wildfire smoke:
- Reduce outdoor activity on smoky days.
- Stay cool and drink plenty of fluids.
- If you have asthma or another chronic illness, activate their personal care plan and carry any rescue medications with you at all times.
- Find clean air shelters such as libraries, community centres, and shopping malls as they often have cleaner, cooler air than smaller buildings or the outdoors.
- Consider purchasing a commercially available HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter and creating a clean air shelter in one room of your home.
- Pay attention to local air quality reports and the conditions around you because smoke levels can change over short periods and over small distances. A heavy haze, possibly accompanied by the smell of smoke, can indicate that smoke levels are higher than usual. Check the Air Quality Health Index in your area.
- Travel to areas with better air quality – conditions can vary greatly across geographic areas and elevations. See Environment and Climate Change Canada’s smoke forecast map for more information.
If you’re in the Osoyoos area, you can get a real-time look at local conditions through cameras maintained by Destination Osoyoos.
If you’d rather not take a chance with your health but still want to stay active, there are a number of local ways you can scratch your fitness itch indoors.