Back to home

Stay safe this wildfire season

Stay safe this wildfire season

Wildfires can affect our physical and mental health and wellness, especially those who may be at higher risk. Talk with your primary care provider about your specific health situation, and take the following precautions this wildfire season.

For current information on wildfires, visit the BC Wildfire Dashboard or EmergencyInfoBC that provides news on evacuation alerts and orders, and emergency support services and reception centres.

Health Care Information for Wildfire Evacuees

COVID-19 Vaccinations

Getting your COVID-19 vaccine is an important part of being prepared for wildfires. Wildfire smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections, including COVID-19.

If you need to move to an evacuation centre, being vaccinated will also help to protect you and others around you, including your loved ones.

Get your first and second dose by appointment or by drop-in at scheduled drop-in times at our COVID-19 Immunization Clinics.

First Nations Supports

First Nations clients seeking supports with refilling prescriptions, medical supplies and equipment can contact First Nations Health Benefits at 1-855-550-5454 or go to https://www.fnha.ca. Additional wildfire resources for aboriginal partners.

Medications

Visit any pharmacy and speak to the pharmacist. They can help you access an emergency supply of the medications you may need without needing to see a physician or nurse practitioner.

Standing Order for Laboratory

Call 1-877-740-7747, Monday to Friday. 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., to book an appointment within Interior Health or have your requisition faxed to the laboratory nearest your location.

Doctor / Nurse Practitioner

If you need immediate emergency care, go to your nearest emergency department.
If your need is not an emergency but you need to see or speak to a physician, nurse practitioner or nurse:

  1. Contact Health Link BC at 8-1-1 to speak to a nurse
  2. Contact your nearest Urgent and Primary Care Centre:

Castlegar Urgent and Primary Care Centre – 250-365-7711
Kamloops Urgent Primary Care and Learning Centre – 250-314-2256
Kelowna Urgent and Primary Care Centre – 250-469-6985
Penticton Urgent and Primary Care Centre – 250-770-3696
Vernon Urgent and Primary Care Centre – 250-541-1097
West Kelowna Urgent and Primary Care Centre – 250-469-6010

Existing Mental Health and Substance Abuse (MHSU) Clients

Contact your existing MHSU clinician or 310-MHSU (310-6478).

Home Health / Seniors Care

Call 250-851-7945 to access home health/ home support, wound care and IV Therapies, diabetes education, cardiovascular, respiratory and nutrition.

Public Health and Maternity Care

Contact 250-851-7300 (toll-free 1-866-847-4372) – includes nursing and health protection.

COVID-19 Test

Book an appointment online or call 1-877-740-7747 (8 a.m. – 7 p.m., seven days a week). More information: https://news.interiorhealth.ca/covid-19

Mental Health and Wellness During Wildfire Season

Fear and anxiety are natural reactions to stressful events.

Be prepared. Having a clear emergency plan and kit ready for your family, pets and livestock can ease your mind and allow you to focus on other needs. Read up on BC’s Get Prepared for a Wildfire page and PreparedBC Wildfire Preparedness Guide.

Take care. Stress takes a toll on our physical and mental health. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep lowers stress and helps us cope.

Ask for help. Talking helps. Whether it’s with family, friends, a care provider. Crisis lines are available to listen and help anytime—not just during a crisis. If you have been evacuated, you can also ask an Emergency Support Services volunteer about the mental health or counselling support available to you.

Help others. Reach out to the vulnerable. Assisting others can help us regain a sense of purpose and community as we confront challenges together.

For more information, see Recovering after a wildfire.

Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke contains small particles that travel into your lungs when you inhale. These particles can cause irritation and inflammation. Most symptoms are relatively mild, such as a sore throat, eye irritation, or a minor headache. Some people may experience more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, severe cough, dizziness, and heart palpitations. Call 8-1-1 or your primary care provider if you’re experiencing these more severe symptoms or 9-1-1 if it’s a health emergency.

The BCCDC recommends the following groups take extra precautions to reduce their exposure to smoke:

  • People with pre-existing chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and diabetes
  • People who are pregnant
  • Infants and small children
  • Elderly

Listen to Dr. Sue Pollock, Interior Health Chief Medical Health Officer, on how smoke can affect you:

Protect Yourself and Others from Wildfire Smoke

The best way to protect your health from wildfire smoke is to seek cleaner air. You can reduce your impacts of wildfire smoke through the following steps:

  • As smoke can make you more vulnerable to lung infections, like COVID-19, ensure you get vaccinated. Find an immunization clinic near you.
  • Use a portable HEPA air cleaner to filter the air in one area of your home. See the BCCDC guide on portable air filters.
  • Visit public spaces such as community centres, libraries, and shopping malls which tend to have cleaner, cooler indoor air
  • Take it easy on smoky days because the harder you breathe, the more smoke you inhale
  • Drink lots of water to help reduce inflammation
  • Some masks, like N95 respirators can provide some protection from wildfire smoke. However it is important to be aware of their limitations and potential risks. Read more on the BCCDC fact sheet: Wildfire Smoke and Masks.
  • People with pre-existing medical conditions should take extra precautions and should keep their rescue medications with them at all times. If you cannot get your symptoms under control, seek prompt medical attention.

Listen to Dr. Sue Pollock, Interior Health Chief Medical Health Officer, on how to protect yourself: