Health Advisory: Precautionary Fire Smoke Advisory Expanded to Grande Prairie Region

While Grande Prairie continues to enjoy a low risk Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) rating, Alberta Health Services has issued a precautionary Air Quality Health Advisory for the region.  Smoke in the air due to uncontrolled fires in northern Alberta  may cause deterioration of air quality into the weekend.

For up to the hour AQHI rating please visit www.paza.ca

The following information is courtesy of Alberta Health Services:

Strategies to Reduce Smoke Exposure from Forest Fires

The following information is courtesy Alberta Health and Wellness:

When forest fire smoke enters a community, it can often cause problems for the people who live there. The biggest health threat comes from small particles in the smoke. These small particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they cause burning eyes, a runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis. For some people, these small particles can aggravate pre-existing heart or lung conditions.

You may experience health effects earlier and at lower smoke levels if:

  • You have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or asthma;
  • You are an older adult, especially if you have heart or lung disease; or
  • You are a child. Children are more susceptible to smoke for several reasons: their respiratory system is still developing; they breathe more air per kilogram of weight than an adult; and are more likely to be active outdoors.

Pets may also be susceptible to smoke. Try to keep them indoors as much as possible, and ensure they have plenty of water. If your pet has trouble breathing, please see your veterinarian.
If smoke becomes a problem in your community, reduce your exposure to smoke through these simple steps:

  • Stay inside as much as possible, with the windows and doors closed. In time periods where the air quality temporarily improves, take the opportunity to ‘air out’ your house by circulating fresh outdoor air.
  • Close fresh air intakes from furnaces, fireplaces or stoves.
  • If you have room air cleaners with HEPA filters, turn them on. While air cleaners can be effective, only those that do not produce ozone should be used.
    Humidifiers may help remove some of the smoke. The humid air may help keep your nose and mouth moist.

Do not use wood stoves, gas stoves or even candles. This can make the indoor air quality worse.

  • Prepare foods which do not require cooking, since cooking (especially frying and broiling) can add to indoor pollutant levels.
  • Don’t smoke tobacco, particularly indoors. Stay away from people who are smoking.
  • When you are in your car or truck, keep the windows closed and put the air system on “recirculate” so you do not bring smoky air inside. When travelling through an area with low or no smoke, switch the circulation system to allow outside air into your vehicle.
  • Most masks are not helpful. The harmful particles are so small they can go right around or through them. Staying indoors with the windows closed remains the best option.
  • Leaving an area of thick smoke may be a good protective measure for members of sensitive groups, but it is often difficult to predict how long the situation will last. Leaving should only be considered if it is safe to travel and if the destination is very likely to have less smoke.

Reduce your activity and monitor your symptoms

  • Avoid strenuous activity or exercising when outside. During exercise, and strenuous activity, you often breathe 10-20 times more than at rest. Stop if it makes you feel tired. When there is a great deal of haze in the air, limit the amount of time your children play outdoors.
    Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. This will keep your nose and mouth moist for easier breathing.
  • If you experience chest tightness, chest pain, shortness of breath or severe fatigue, consult your community health nurse or doctor. You should do this even if you don’t have a previous heart or lung problems. You can also call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-LINK (5465) to speak with a registered nurse. If it is an emergency call 911.

Be aware of your surroundings and instructions from your community

  • If instructed to shelter-in-place, do not leave the facility/home unless advised to. Be alert to Public Service Announcements.
  • If you have neighbors, friends or relatives that live alone, check periodically to make sure they are OK. The elderly and people with heart or lung conditions may get sick from the smoke.
    Remember that outdoor events, such as athletic games or competitions, may be postponed or cancelled if smoke levels become elevated.
  • When doors and windows are kept closed to keep the smoke out, houses may also get very warm. This can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Turn on the furnace fan or stand alone fans to circulate air.
  • Be aware of “Safe Sanctuaries”. Community centers, shopping malls, movie theatres and similar venues may have better air conditioning and filtration systems. Go to these places only if it is safe to do so.

People with asthmas, heart or lung conditions can also do the following:

  • Be especially careful about monitoring your health. Take all of the medicine you are supposed to take, and do everything your nurse or doctor tells you to do. Make sure you have a week’s supply of your medication available.
  • If you plan to use a portable air cleaner, buy one appropriately matched to room size, as specified by the manufacturer, before a smoke emergency occurs. Do not use units that may emit ozone.
  • Talk to your nurse or doctor if you have any other concerns about your health. Again, you can also call Health Link Alberta at 1-866-408-LINK (5465) to speak with a registered nurse. If it is an emergency call 911.

For further information:
Alberta Health Services
Residents can contact Health Link Alberta to speak to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, toll-free at 1-866-408-LINK (5465).
BlueSky
View an animated hour-by-hour forecast of how smoke may travel from wildfires in Western Canada for up to 48 hours in the future. Different levels of smoke are provided in colors that correspond to different concentrations of smoke (particulate matter 2.5). People who view this site should keep in mind that like a weather forecast, local conditions may vary.
http://www.bcairquality.com/bluesky/index.html

Health Advisory: Wildfire Smoke and Your Health

The following information is courtesy Alberta Health and Wellness:

August 20, 2010

Alberta has experienced episodes of very poor air quality since Thursday August 19. The smoke in the air is due to the uncontrolled fires in British Columbia and the prevailing winds. While variable, air quality is expected to be very poor at times over the weekend.

What is in smoke from wildfires?

Smoke from wildfires is made up of very small particles from burning trees and other plant material, gases and water vapor.

Is wildfire smoke bad for me?

Minor smoke conditions do not typically cause health concerns in most healthy individuals; however individuals with respiratory conditions such as COPD and asthma, and existing cardiovascular conditions such as angina, previous heart attack and congestive heart failure, may be more likely to notice a worsening of their symptoms.

If smoke conditions become more severe, even healthy individuals may experience irritation of eyes, throat and possibly shortness of breath.

All Albertans – and particularly those with existing respiratory conditions – are encouraged to monitor their own symptoms, and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.

How do I know if wildfire smoke is affecting me?

You may develop or notice some of the following symptoms:

  • increased coughing
  • irritated sinuses and runny nose
  • a scratchy throat
  • headaches
  • stinging feeling in your eyes
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling of unusual tiredness

How can I protect myself?

Individuals with existing respiratory conditions are advised to take the precautions and steps they normally do when experiencing worsened respiratory symptoms.

All Albertans are encouraged to monitor their own health, and adapt their activities as necessary.

A few helpful tips:

  • If symptoms develop, minimize or stop your outdoor activities, particularly those involving strenuous exercise. 
  • If you choose to stay indoors, or are advised to “shelter in place”, keep indoor air as clean as possible:
  • Shelter in place instructions:
    • Close and lock all outside windows and doors, including attached garage doors
    • Turn down furnace thermostats and furnace fans to the minimum setting.  Do not attempt to extinguish pilot light.
    • If you have an air-conditioner, keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
    • Avoid running fans, such as “whole-house fans” or “fresh air ventilation systems”, that bring more smoky outdoor air inside.
    • Switch all floor registers to closed position
    • Close fire place dampers on wood burning fireplaces
  • Don’t add to indoor air pollution by using or doing anything that burns and adds more smoke, like smoking inside the house, using candles, gas stoves, frying food, or fireplaces.  Don’t vacuum while there is a smoke advisory because vacuuming will stir up any dust particles already inside your home.
  • Don’t rely on dust masks for protection. The paper dust masks that you might use to keep out large particles like sawdust will not protect your lungs from smoke.

For more information or advice, call HealthLink Alberta to speak to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 780-408-LINK (5465) or at the toll-free 1-866-408-LINK (5465).  In case of severe symptoms, seek emergency medical attention.