With smoke and hazy conditions expected in and out of the Grande Prairie region as wildfires continue to burn across Alberta, including here in the Peace Country, officials with Alberta Health Services say preparation for the conditions is vital in keeping yourself safe.
Medical Officer of Health for the AHS Northzone, Dr. Jack Pang, says the air quality index in the Grande Prairie area traditionally ranges between 0 and 2. However, when that number begins to climb, more than just the higher-risk groups, including seniors, school-aged kids, and those with pre-existing conditions, that should begin to prepare to keep themselves safe.
“If you’re experiencing any sort of symptoms, like difficulty breathing, itchiness in your eyes, [or] throat, those could be due to air quality, but you can take steps to protect yourself,” Dr. Pang says.
“The easiest, and probably the best way is to shelter away from the outdoor air. Go inside, close windows and doors and shut off the intake of air from the outside, and use the internal circulation of the air. Just removing yourself from that environment, from that exposure from that outdoor air that is of poor quality,” he adds.
Particulate matter in wildfire smoke can include things like sulfur dioxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide, and Dr. Pang suggests if you have no choice but to be in the outdoors when the air quality is declining, there are small tips that can help you breathe a little easier.
“There are reasons people have to be outside, but there are things they can do as well, for example, using a properly fitted respiratory mask, like an N95 mask, that really helps protect you from inhaling these harmful particles,” he says.
“If you’re driving, close your windows and turn on the AC, make it circulate the air within your car.”
You can find the latest wildfire smoke forecast here, and monitor updated air quality numbers through the Peace Airshed Zone Association.