Wildfires across the province have resulted in smoky skies and poor air quality for many Interior Health communities. During times of poor air quality, it’s important that individuals take steps to protect their health and well being. Over the last week we have received questions from community members and local organizations about the health risks of strenuous outdoor activities.
In B.C. we use the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to make recommendations for modifying outdoor activity and/or avoiding smoke.
This index takes into consideration levels of particulate matter, NO2, SO2, and other gases that are known to negatively impact lung capacity, heart function, and blood flow to muscles and brain tissue. Smoke affects everyone differently, but those most at risk include individuals with underlying medical conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, or diabetes, and infants, the elderly and pregnant women.
The best way to protect your health when skies are smoky is to reduce your exposure and seek cleaner air. When the AQHI is moderate or higher (equal to and/or above 4), Interior Health recommends that individuals consider reducing or avoiding strenuous activities, and follow the recommendations provided on the BC Air Quality website.
If you are experiencing clinical symptoms of any kind, contact your health care provider or local walk-in clinic. If your symptoms are severe, seek emergency medical attention.
In the Central Okanagan, North Okanagan and South Okanagan the AQHI is currently 10+, ranked at a very high risk.
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