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B.C.’s top doctor talks masks, vaccinations during wildfire season

Click to play video: 'More than 20 fires ignite across BC in 48 hours' More than 20 fires ignite across BC in 48 hours
With more than 300 fires burning across B.C., 22 were ignited in the last 48 hours – Jul 16, 2021

B.C.’s top doctor offered some health advice to help British Columbians cope with the wildfire season.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said smoky conditions can be a concern, especially for those with conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

She said wearing a mask may offer a form of protection from some particulate matter.

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100 Mile House under wildfire evacuation alert – Jul 15, 2021

“The three-layer cloth or disposable masks that we’ve been using for COVID, those also can help prevent the inhalation of some of the larger particulate matters, in particular, and may help when you have to be outside during wildfire smoke,” Henry said.

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Henry noted that those considering wearing a mask should be wary of overheating.

“It’s finding that balance,” she said. “For some people, wearing a mask in the smoke will just increase their work of breathing too much.”

The BC Centre for Disease Control has offered guidance on masks and wildfire smoke.

Henry noted that people need to weigh the need for clean air with the need to stay cool during hot weather.

She noted that people should consider keeping their windows closed to keep smoke out if they can maintain a reasonable temperature in their home. Henry said people can seek out air conditioning at places like libraries, community centres and shopping malls.

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New wildfire evacuation orders issued in the Cariboo – Jul 15, 2021

“For most people, overheating is much more dangerous than breathing smoke,” Henry said.

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Henry also urged people to get their COVID-19 vaccine in case they are forced to move to a wildfire evacuation centre.

“Now is the time to make sure that you are immunized if you have not yet been immunized for COVID,” she said. “If you have to evacuate and you have to be with elderly people or in a reception centre for a period of time where other people are as well, it’s important that we protect both ourselves and each other.”

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