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What to do when wildfire smoke is in the air?

Wildfires are often large, and can sometimes lead to widespread impacts on the land, and on the well-being of the population.  The main health effects of wildfires are respiratory illnesses (especially among children, the elderly, individuals suffering from pre-existing illnesses, and smokers) and poor mental health (which can range from temporary disturbances to severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder).

Wildfire smoke can affect everyone differently. Symptoms can range from being lightheaded to difficulty breathing.

When smoke in the air becomes too much to handle, the following are some recommendations on how to lessen the effects:

  1. Keep doors and windows closed and seal any large gaps.
  2. Avoid using any exhaust fans like the ones in the kitchen, bathroom and clothes dryer.
  3. Turn on air conditioner to recirculate the air in the home, use ceiling fans, or portable fans rather than taking air from the outdoors.
  4. Avoid indoor pollutants such as tobacco smoke, heating with wood, frying or boiling foods, burning candles and using paints/adhesives.
  5. Keep a 5-day supply of medication available.
  6. Have a supply of non-perishable groceries that do not require cooking.
  7. Limit time spent outdoors and avoid exertion.
  8. If you begin to experience symptoms of wildfire smoke, evacuate to cleaner air shelter or leave area; if safe to do so.

Sensitive Groups

People with heart or lung disease, the elderly, children, and pregnant woman should be aware of the effects that wildfire smoke may present. The following are activities that should be considered to protect themselves:

  • Limit time spent outdoors.
  • Avoid physical exertion.
  • People with asthma should consult with their doctor.
  • Individuals who suffer from lung or heart disease and are experiencing the following symptoms should contact their health care provider: repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, heart palpitations, nausea, unusual fatigue or lightheadedness.

Face masks for wildfire smoke:

If you must spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator type mask (such as a NIOSH certified N95 or equivalent respirator) that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and face, can help reduce your exposure to the fine particles in smoke. These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health. However, respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases in wildfire smoke. It is important to listen to your body and reduce or stop activities if you are experiencing symptoms.

For additional Information on masking: Face Masks for Wildfire Smoke

Download, print and share Wildfire Smoke 101 factsheets:

Air Quality Alerts

If your community is at immediate risk from air pollution caused by dense wildfire smoke, Environment and Climate Change Canada will issue an air quality alert.

Learn more about wildfire smoke events, the effects of wildfire smoke on your health, and how to protect yourself at Government of Canada.

Additional Resources

If you experience any feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression, contact your mental health care provider for advice or visit https://www.wellnesstogether.ca/en-CA.

Visit www.firesmoke.ca to see smoke forecasts for your area.