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

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Victoria for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

(Courtesy Saanich Police Dept.)
Police hope boot search will help find missing Saanich man

Sean Hart is known to walk for miles, with or without his boots

A Colwood couple has set up over 140 Christmas inflatable decorations around their property at 555 Girdou Rd. The home is lit with Christmas music playing from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Colwood house decorated to the nines with Christmas inflatables

Display on Girou Road open to spectators from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday

Shopping in the evening in downtown Victoria can be a good time to go, with relatively few people in store and plenty of room to physically distance, as this photo from Government Street shows. (Don Descoteau/News Staff) 
Shopping in the evening in downtown Victoria can be a good time to go, with relatively few people in store and plenty of room to physically distance, as this photo from Government Street shows. But thanks to a new program from the Downtown Victoria Business Association, many downtown businesses will soon be able to provide free delivery for customers across the region. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Downtown Victoria businesses offered free delivery for regional customers

DVBA launches ‘Downtown Delivers’ program Dec. 7

Saanich police reported a crash on the Pat Bay Highway near Haliburton Road impacting southbound traffic Friday afternoon. (Google Maps)
UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway clear following two-vehicle crash

Two drivers were transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

Most Read