Protect yourself from the effects of wildfire smoke

Wildfire season is upon us. Within the Public Health Sudbury & Districts service area, at least three fires have been reported including a large fire just west of Gogama. Public Health would like to remind residents, both in the Gogama area and across the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts, of the health effects of wildfire smoke and how to protect yourself.

Air quality

Smoke from wildfires is a potential health risk. Environment Canada has issued an air quality alert for Gogama due to the fire.

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 particles, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds.

Most healthy adults and children will recover quickly from smoke exposures and will not suffer long-term consequences. Those at greatest risk of experiencing symptoms include older adults, children, pregnant women, people who smoke, and people with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

Health effects of wildfire smoke

  • eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • headaches, nausea, and dizziness
  • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing
  • decreased lung function
  • worsening asthma symptoms

How to protect yourself:

Visit the Air Quality Health Index (Air Quality Ontario) for current, local air quality information. Based on the reading, follow the recommendations for at-risk population or general public.

If you are at-risk or experiencing symptoms:

  • Reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities.
  • Limit time outdoors.
  • Follow your health care provider’s usual advice about managing your condition.
  • If you are concerned about your risk or symptoms, call Telehealth at 866.797.0000 for medical advice or visit a health care provider.

Wildfires may cause power outages

  • During a power outage, avoid opening refrigerators and freezers unless absolutely necessary. A full freezer will keep food frozen for approximately 48 hours, while a freezer that is half full will keep food frozen for about 24 hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for approximately 4 hours.
  • After a power outage, carefully inspect all hazardous food items. Do not consume any food you think might not be safe.
  • Discard any food items in the refrigerator or freezer that have come in contact with raw meat juices.
  • Discard perishable foods such as milk and milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish that have been unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. Discard any food with an unusual odour or texture.
  • Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but the food will remain safe to eat as long as the food still contains ice crystals or is at or below 4°C.
  • Keep in mind that food contaminated with bacteria might not look or smell spoiled—when in doubt, throw it out!

For more information on what to do with your food during and after an emergency, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website on Food Safety in an Emergency, or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200, ext. 464.

Emergency preparedness

It is impossible to predict everything that might happen during an emergency, but you can minimize the potential impact on your family by preparing an emergency plan and emergency survival kit. Your emergency survival kit should have everything you and your family would need to be safe and take care of yourselves for at least 72 hours following an emergency. Visit Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ website to learn more about preparing your 72-hour emergency kit.

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 or visit www.phsd.ca.

This item was last modified on June 10, 2019