Smoke from the northern forest fires has forced Environment Canada to issue a special air quality statement for Prince Albert, and the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region (PAPHR) plans to issue an advisory as well.
It comes as Environment Canada issued a number of air quality advisories for communities province-wide. It expects the smoke to persist over the next couple of days and warns that smoke near the ground may cause “potentially high health risk conditions.”
On Monday afternoon, the provincial ministry of health issued an air quality alert for areas with heavy smoke.
The PAPHR expects to release its own advisory later on Monday as it gets an assessment of the situation and predictions for the next 48 hours.
PAPHR medical health officer Dr. Khami Chokani is advising people to stay indoors, but he’s asking those who do go outside to avoid strenuous activities, such as exercising. The smoke may cause symptoms such as eye and throat irritation.
He said that with this amount of smoke, there’s a “significant” potential for health risks. He said the smoke itself can cause problems especially for people with heart and respiratory conditions.
“Because what would happen is, instead of them feeling stable right now it might get worse and so they would need to take precautions,” he said.
Chokani advises them to keep windows, doors and any outdoor air circulation coming into the building closed, room air cleaners with HEPA filters should be turned on, and avoid tobacco smoke. In a vehicle, he says the windows should be kept closed and the air system should be set to recirculate.
He suggests using fans to recirculate air inside the home and using damp towels to cool down or have a cool shower or bath. He also advises people not to use ovens to prepare their meals.
But there is added concern about the smoke’s effects with the temperatures expected to rise.
“If the heat goes to the levels that we are expecting it, because people will be having doors and their windows closed, and especially as they won’t be having any air conditioning, it’s really, really, really important, especially if you’ve got young children with you, or anybody who’s got any sort of medical condition with you, that they’ve got to drink lots and lots of cool water.”
As well, anyone with “at-risk” family, friends or neighbours should check up on them to make sure they’re drinking plenty of fluids and keeping cool, he said.
But anyone showing symptoms of lethargy or irritability needs to be taken to the doctor, Chokani said.
Those most at-risk for suffering the smoke’s ill effects are young children, and people with heart or respiratory conditions. It’s really important for people with asthma to have their inhalers and for those with allergies to have their EPI pen with them.
Anyone with questions about symptoms is asked to call Health Line at 811.
Here is a list of walk-in clinics that people with non-urgent health concerns are being asked to visit instead of the emergency room:
Prince Albert Cornerstone Medical Clinic (306-922-2002)
Prince Albert Medical Walk-In Clinic (306-764-6655)
South Hill Minor Emergency Clinic (306-922-2266)
Supermed Family Medicine and Walk-In Clinic (306-763-4808)
West Hill Medical Clinic (306-765-8500)
On Twitter: @thiajames
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