Check air quality and protect yourself from the effects of wildfire smokeIssued: Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Air quality across Ontario, including within the Public Health Sudbury & Districts service area, continues to be adversely affected by smoke plumes from local forest fires (wildfires), as well as wildfires outside of our area.
As the wildfires are expected to continue for the foreseeable future, Public Health Sudbury & Districts would like to remind residents of the health effects of wildfire smoke and how to protect yourself.
Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and plant materials. The smoke releases many contaminants into the air, such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds.
Low levels of wildfire smoke can impact your health. Milder symptoms of smoke exposure include mild cough, headache, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. These symptoms can typically be managed without medical intervention. More serious symptoms include dizziness, chest pains, irregular heartbeat, severe cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and asthma attacks.
To reduce your risk of experiencing symptoms:
- Avoid outdoor physical exertion. Stop, reduce, or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities.
- Keep airways moist by drinking plenty of water.
- Breathe through a warm, moist washcloth to help relieve dryness.
- Visit places with cleaner, filtered air, such as libraries or shopping malls.
- If the temperature is comfortable, keep windows closed indoors and in vehicles. Use the recirculation setting on air conditioners and HVAC systems to prevent smoke from entering. Once the outdoor air has improved, adjust the setting to bring in fresh air.
- Follow your health care provider’s advice about managing your condition.
- People who have asthma should follow their asthma management plan.
Most healthy adults and children will recover quickly from smoke exposures and will not suffer long-term consequences. However, older adults, pregnant people, infants and young children, people who smoke, people who work outdoors, people involved in strenuous outdoor exercise, and people with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions may experience more severe short-term, as well as long-term chronic symptoms from smoke exposure.
For these individuals, a well-fitted respiratory type of mask, such as an N95, can help reduce health risk when outside. Masks, however, may not fully protect you from poor air quality. Contact your doctor if you have chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or severe fatigue. This is important for people with chronic lung or heart disease and for people who have not been previously diagnosed with such diseases. Smoke can “unmask” or produce symptoms of illness.
Public Health strongly recommends that residents monitor the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) and sign up for notifications at WeatherCAN: How to set up custom notifications – Canada.ca.
For more information, call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200, ext. 464 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200) to speak to a public health inspector, visit www.phsd.ca, or visit the Environment and Climate Change Canada website at www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/air-quality-health-index/wildfire-smoke.html.