The wildfire smoke that's set up shop in southwestern Saskatchewan since Labour Day weekend has a prominent health official urging the public to take precautions.
Swift Current's Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) has finally started to improve over the last 36 hours but not before local physicians and the HeathLine 811 received an increase in calls due to the smokey weather.
Dr. David Torr, the medical health officer for the southwest (four through six networks) and area department lead for public health and preventative medicine for integrated rural with the SHA, said the best way to reduce the risk of any smoke-related illness is to avoid going outside when the AQHI is bad.
"Don't go out if you don't have to," he cautioned. "If you do have to, don't exert yourself and reduce the time as much as possible.
"In severe winter people are advised not to travel to work, that's excusable, it's the same thing if smoke levels or the AQHI are very high," he said. "One should be very cautious about any kind of exertion outdoors because you will definitely get the effects."
Symptoms for smoke-related illnesses can include minor effects like slight eye/throat irritations and a cough. Worsening symptoms include shortness of breath, headaches, and severe coughing.
Individuals with pre-existing heart and lung conditions, children, and seniors are the most susceptible. With the latter encouraged to keep medication close by at all times including puffers.
"For those more predisposed, it may even be advised to get an air purifier," he said. "The other thing is to reduce any other contamination indoors. Don't smoke indoors, smoke is also highly susceptible. Don't have anything that is burning that could add to the effects of the smoke."
While staying inside away from the wildfire smoke-covered atmosphere, ensure all windows and doors are shut. Another step is to make sure the air filters running in the furnace and vehicle are clean.
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