Early morning on May 16, 2023 a Special Air Quality Statement was issued for the City of Calgary and many areas across Alberta due to wildfire smoke.
As of 9:30am, much of Alberta is sitting at a 10+ on the Air Quality Health Index
AQHI 10+ DURING WILDFIRE SMOKE EVENTS
In Canada, an AQHI value of 10+ is typically due to very high levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from wildfire smoke.
An AQHI of 10+ indicates a very high health risk due to air pollution and/or wildfire smoke. When the AQHI reaches 10+, air pollution and health risks may continue to increase but the AQHI will not increase any further. This is the highest health risk category on the AQHI scale. When the air is polluted enough to cause an AQHI of 10+, everyone’s health is at risk and it is important to:
• Take precautions to protect your health
• Follow the advice of local health officials
• Symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure
Milder and more common symptoms of smoke exposure include:
• A mild cough
• Production of phlegm
• Sore and watery eyes
• Nose, throat and sinus irritation
You can typically manage these symptoms without medical intervention.
More serious but less common symptoms of smoke exposure include:
• Chest pains
• Severe cough
• Shortness of breath
• Wheezing (including asthma attacks)
• Heart palpitations (irregular heart beat)
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to a health care provider or seek urgent medical attention.
Less commonly, exposure to wildfire smoke can lead to:
• Heart attack
• Premature death
If you think you are having a medical emergency, dial 9-1-1 and seek immediate medical care.
Some people are at higher risk of health problems when exposed to wildfire smoke. This includes:
• Pregnant people
• Infants and young children
• People who work outdoors
• People involved in strenuous outdoor exercise
• People with an existing illness or chronic health conditions, such as:
• Lung or heart conditions
During heavy smoke conditions, everyone is at risk regardless of their age or health.
PROTECTING YOUR HEALTH FROM WILDFIRE SMOKE
The best way to protect your health is to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke.
There’s no evidence of a safe level of exposure for some of these pollutants. This means that smoke can impact your health even at very low levels. As smoke levels increase, your health risks increase. Air pollution may be present even when you can’t see or smell smoke.
Use care when spending time outdoors during a wildfire smoke event.
Limit outdoor activities and strenuous physical activities as much as possible. If you have difficulty breathing, reduce your activities or stop altogether.
If your work is not critical and can be moved to an area where smoke levels are lower, consider relocating or rescheduling it when air quality conditions improve.
Reduce levels of physical activity, as necessary, to decrease inhaling pollutants.
Pay attention to warnings – public health warnings apply to you and should be followed.
Don’t smoke tobacco and stay away from people who smoke.
To prevent smoky air from getting in your vehicle, keep your windows closed and air systems on recirculate.
Drink water and stay hydrated to help ensure your nose and mouth are moist.
If you have chest tightness, chest pain, or shortness of breath, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away.
If you have unusual tiredness, contact a community health nurse or your doctor – do this even if you don’t have a heart or lung problem.