There was another drop in Calgary’s air quality Sunday because of smoke from wildfires, as the city hit 10, or very high, on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) scale.
Very high AQHI values are being reported through much of Alberta, including Edmonton and Lethbridge, and are expected to remain high through mid-week in central and northern regions.
The smoke can cause a number of health issues, including sore and watery eyes, runny nose and sinus irritation, as well as coughing and headache.
More serious symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath and severe coughing.
People with lung disease, such as asthma and COPD, can be particularly affected by the pollution in the air.
Pediatric respirologist Dr. Anne Hicks said it is not safe for anyone to be outside when there’s a high-risk level of smoke.
“For any person, even a healthy adult, when you get to a certain level of respiratory irritation you are causing inflammation and damage to the lungs,” Hicks said.
She said the impacts are worse for children, seniors and people with asthma and COPD.
“Everybody should be cautious. Even if you don’t have asthma, if you’re feeling very short of breath do get checked out,” Hicks said.
You may be tempted to wear a mask to block out smoke. Hicks said very small particles from smoke are not filtered out by face masks worn to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.
However, Hicks said masks can help decrease symptoms, like a sore throat, caused by bigger particles in smoke.
“I think that it could be helpful and it could decrease the overall irritation you’re experiencing from the smoke but it’s not a substitute for staying indoors,” Hicks said.
Alberta Health Services says there are a few ways to lower your exposure to particles in the air:
• Close and lock all outside windows and doors, including attached garage doors.
• Turn down furnace thermostats and furnace fans to the minimum setting. Do not attempt to extinguish pilot light.
• If you have an air-conditioner, keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
• Avoid running fans, such as “whole-house fans” or “fresh air ventilation systems” that bring more smoky outdoor air inside.
• Switch all floor registers to closed position.
• Close fireplace dampers on wood-burning fireplaces.
Albertans are also being advised to avoid strenuous activities.
On Friday, the city of Calgary issue a fire ban to restrict burning that could contribute to poor air quality.