On average, Canada experiences about 7,500 wildfires annually, and they're only becoming more common. Not only can these fires lead to major property damage, but they can also cause adverse health effects, particularly in those who inhale the smoke.
Typically, wildfire smoke consists of a mixture of gases and particles from burning trees and other plant materials. This smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. Worse still, prolonged exposure can contribute to various types of cancer.
Wildfires can negatively impact the health of anyone who inhales the smoke, but the following individuals are more susceptible:
- Individuals with heart or lung diseases
- Older adults
Protecting Yourself From Wildfire Smoke
While wildfires are unpredictable and can impact your area at any time, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from inhaling smoke:
- Check local air quality reports and watch the news for health warnings related to smoke.
- Keep indoor air as clean as possible by leaving your windows and doors closed. If smoke is adversely affecting the air quality of your home, consider relocating to a local evacuation centre.
- Stay indoors to avoid smoke inhalation as much as possible while smoke is present.
- Avoid any activity that could increase indoor air pollution, such as burning candles, smoking, vacuuming, or using fireplaces or gas stoves.
- Seek medical advice if you are experiencing respiratory issues or other health concerns. Follow any guidance administered by your doctor.
- Consider evacuating the area if wildfire smoke is dense or is affecting your health. In addition, if you live in the path of the wildfire, leave the area immediately and follow any guidance administered by local officials.
- Don't rely on dust masks for protection. These devices are not designed to filter out the small particles found in wildfire smoke.
Wildfires are an ongoing concern wherever there is dry, hot weather. Above all, in order to protect yourself from the dangers of smoke inhalation, it's important to stay tuned to the news and follow any guidance issued by local officials and your doctor.