B.C. wildfire crews continue the battle. (Contibuted photo)

Wildfire smoke continues to create health risk in Red Deer region

Thunderstorms may flush out some of the smoke

The smoke event continues in the Red Deer region.

Environment Canada said in a statement issued at 4:30 a.m. Thursday that wildfires in British Columbia continue to generate huge amounts of smoke over Western Canada. This smoke has crossed the Rockies and settled into much of Central Alberta.

Due to the smoke, the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) could reach near 8-10, or very high risk, in parts of the region today. The thickest smoke is in a corridor from Hinton to Edmonton to Red Deer.

The AQHI for Red Deer was reading 5 at 8 a.m. Thursday, with it forecast to rise to 8 during the day and dropping to 6 tonight.

The smoke will remain in the area until at least Thursday afternoon or evening, when thunderstorms may flush out some of the smoke. Conditions in the southwest will improve sooner as a low pressure system develops north of Calgary and southwest winds will help to push the smoke to the northeast.

ndividuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.

In general, wearing a mask is not the best way to protect your health during a smoke event. In fact, masks may lead to a false sense of security, which may encourage increased physical activity and time spent outdoors, meaning increased exposure to smoke. They can also make breathing more difficult.

People with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, can be particularly sensitive to air pollution. They will generally experience more serious health effects at lower levels. Pollution can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits, and hospital visits.

Stay inside if you have breathing difficulties. Find an indoor place that’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner that cools and filters air may help. If you open the windows you may let in more polluted air. If your home isn’t air-conditioned, consider going to a public place (library, shopping mall, recreation centre) that is air-conditioned.

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