Wildfire smoke has prompted Alberta Health Services to issue a precautionary air quality advisory for the entire province of Alberta.

Residents and visitors should be aware of potential cardiovascular and respiratory health risks associated with the smoky air conditions, shares Dr. Jason Cabaj with Alberta Health Services. "There is a range of health effects related to air pollution most commonly respiratory/cardiovascular illness worsening for people with pre-existing conditions. We know when there are periods of poor air quality there can also be some additional mortalities or deaths related to air quality and so it's important for people to think about the risks with both short-term and long-term exposure to air pollution."

The air quality health index is considered to be in the moderate range and while minor smoky conditions are generally not worrisome for healthy individuals if you are considered to be amongst the at-risk population, you may want to modify your activity if experiencing symptoms.

Dr. Cabaj says infants/young children, older adults and those with heart and breathing issues should be more careful and monitor their symptoms accordingly. "The messaging is a bit more conservative for people in those cases but currently the air quality, even with all the haze in the air, isn't at the level that we would really recommend people to change what they are doing because of the importance of activity and exercise."

Although minor smoke conditions do not typically cause health concerns in healthy individuals if smoke conditions become more severe, even healthy individuals may experience temporary irritation of eyes and throat, and possibly shortness of breath.

If you can taste and/or smell smoke in the air:

  • Monitor your symptoms.
  • Minimize physical activity outdoors.
  • Remain indoors with windows, doors and air circulation fans/vents closed.
  • If you drive to another location, keep windows and vents closed. Run your car fan on re-circulate mode to avoid drawing in outdoor air.

If you are experiencing symptoms you are advised to call your physician or Health Link at 811 and speak to a registered nurse.

The Air Quality is listed as a five to a maximum of six currently (August 9) on the health index scale for the Calgary area.

Alberta Health Services will keep the public updated if conditions worsen and this advisory will remain in effect until further notice. If you are considered to be in the at-risk category, you may want to monitor the air quality conditions more closely and that information can be found HERE.

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