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.
Health Care Information for Wildfire Evacuees
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
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: