Protecting Yourself from Wildfire Smoke
An increase in wildfire activity typically results in smoky skies and reduced air quality. A Smoky Skies Bulletin is a special public advisory to highlight the regional impacts of wildfire smoke. You can also check the Air Quality Health Index to help you understand what the air quality around you means for your health.
Wildfire smoke can be especially harmful for infants and young children, older people and people with pre-existing heart and lung conditions. The best way to protect yourself is to reduce your exposure. Here are a few tips to help you breathe easier:
- Stay indoors and keep the air clean (windows/doors closed, no smoking, no burning fireplaces/candles/incense, no vacuuming).
- When in a vehicle, keep windows closed with air conditioning set to recirculate.
- Reduce time spent outdoors and avoid vigorous outdoor activities.
- Visit places with controlled air supply, such as shopping malls, swimming pools, public libraries, etc.
- People with asthma or other chronic illness should ensure they have an adequate supply of inhalers/medication and should activate their asthma or personal protection plans.
- High-quality, portable air cleaners that use HEPA filtration can effectively remove smoke particles from the indoor air. People with respiratory conditions should consider purchasing HEPA filtration units.
- For non-emergency medical advice or assistance, visit HealthLinkBC or call 8-1-1.
- Only call 9-1-1 during an emergency, such as if someone is having difficulties breathing or is in cardiovascular distress.
- BC Centre for Disease Control – wildfire smoke resources
The smoke is bad! Should I self-evacuate to another community? Sheltering-in-place (staying where you are) is usually the best way to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke, but only if you have access to clean indoor air in your home or community. Because smoky conditions shift and move, self-evacuating to another community may not help you reduce your exposure. In fact, unnecessary relocation or travel can trigger stress and anxiety that may cause other negative health effects.
Health Authorities & Health Information
To help reduce your personal health risk during wildfire season, ensure you’re aware of the health information and services available in your area. To start, consult these resources:
- First Nations Health Authority – Wildfire Information
- Regional Health Authorities
- 8-1-1 Health Information & Advice Phone Line
- HealthLinkBC – Wildfires & Your Health
- Public Health Alerts
Need medication? If you’ve been displaced by an evacuation, you can visit a pharmacy near you to access an emergency supply of medications. Visit the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia to learn more.