LETHBRIDGE - When the air quality in southwestern Alberta declines because of forest fire smoke, Alberta Health Services' Medical Officer of Health Dr. Karin Goodison, urges those with health issues, children, and the elderly to stay indoors.
She says the particulate matter in the air can damage lungs and cause longer term health effects.
"Certainly the information on this, is that a lot of what we'll notice during this is acute. However, when we breathe in these particles, they're very tiny and they can go right through into the lower parts of our lungs, and can actually go into the bloodstream. So there can be long term health effects with particulate matter and wildfire smoke."
According to AHS, the way forest fire smoke can affect your health is determined by several factors, including the length of time someone has been exposed to it, how much they breathe in, how concentrated the smoke is in the air, the person's age and their health status.
The most common effects include exacerbation of pre-existing cardiac or lung conditions.
She says the best thing to do when the air quality worsens is to limit outdoor activity, close windows and doors, and if possible, use an air purifier with a hepa-filter to clean particulate matter out of the air.
"Certainly what I'm hearing on the ground, and this is not evidence based at all, is this is the driest year and the worst year for smoke that we've seen in the south. That's what I'm hearing from farmers... from people who've lived here for 80 years."
Goodison adds that monitoring Environment Canada and downloading the Air Quality Health Index which is updated each hour, can also help people make decisions on whether to plan outdoor activities.
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