Durham Health offering tips to reduce risk of illness during air quality statement

With parts of the Golden Horseshoe still getting inundated with wildfire smoke on Wednesday, the Durham Region Health Department has some tips for staying healthy in the haze.

“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health, even at low concentrations,” said Philip Barrocas, Acting Manager for Recreational Water and Healthy Environments, in an interview with Durham Radio News.

“At-risk populations should reduce and reschedule extraneous activities outdoors,” he continued. “Children and the elderly should also take it easy for today.”

At least four school boards in Durham Region announced that they would be keeping students inside for recess on Wednesday.

Even if you’re in one of the middle age brackets, Barrocas suggests you consider cutting back on non-urgent outdoor activities.

“If you have to spend time outdoors, a well-fitted respirator-type mask, such as an N95 or equivalent respirator, that does not allow air to pass through small openings between the mask and face, can help reduce your exposure to fine particles in the smoke,” he noted. “These fine particles generally pose the greatest risk to health.”

“However, the respirators do not reduce exposure to the gases in wildfire smoke,” he stressed. “It’s important to listen to your body and reduce and stop those activities if you start to experience symptoms.

If your home is comfortably air-conditioned, it can help keep your windows and doors closed.

If you have a HEPA filter, you can run it in the room you spend the most time in.

Barrocas recommended against smoking or vaping indoors, lighting incense or candles or frying foods.

Vacuum cleaners can also kick up dust and add air pollution.

“Dust on indoor surfaces can be removed by wiping and wet-mopping during a pollution episode,” he said.

Milder symptoms related to air pollution include headaches, mild cough, runny nose, phlegm and irritation in the eyes, nose and throat.

“You should watch yourself for more serious symptoms, such as dizziness, chest pain, severe cough, shortness or breath, wheezing and heart palpitations. And of course, if anyone starts to experience those things, they should immediately contact their health care provider,” said Barrocas.

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