Smoke from wildfires burning in Canada is moving into parts of the U.S., setting off air quality alerts for millions of people in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and parts of the Southeast.
These alerts mean the air outside people’s homes is unhealthy. In addition, dry and windy weather has led to the start of wildfires in areas not as familiar with them, adding to the poor air conditions which stretch from New England as far south as the Carolinas.
Reports indicate as many as 13 states have issued the air quality alerts due to the thick smoke and fine particles in the air which are hazardous to breathe.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO Follow the advice of local officials regarding the air quality where you live and work. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and fine particles that can make anyone sick. People with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), heart disease, who are pregnant and children and responders are especially at risk.
Breathing in the smoke can cause almost immediate effects such as coughing, trouble breathing, wheezing, asthma attacks, stinging eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose and irritated sinuses, headaches, being tired, chest pain and a fast heartbeat.
Most importantly, try to keep the smoke outside.
- Keep windows and doors closed. Choose a room you can close off from outside air.
- Use fans and air conditioning to stay cool.
- Set up a portable air cleaner or a filter to keep the air in this room clean even if it’s smoky in the rest of the building and outdoors.
- Avoid using candles, gas, propane, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, or aerosol sprays and don’t fry or broil meat, smoke tobacco products or vacuum.
- If you have a central air conditioning system, use high efficiency filters to capture fine particles from the smoke. If your system has a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode or close the outdoor intake damper.
- If you’re in your car, set the air to recirculate.
- Pay attention to any health symptoms if you have asthma, COPD, heart disease, or are pregnant. Get medical help if you need it.
- Use N95 face masks or respirator masks. Make sure to cover both your nose and mouth.
CANADIAN RED CROSS RESPONSE
2023 marks a record-setting year for wildfires across Canada, burning millions of acres across the country. This has resulted in the evacuation of thousands of people.
The Canadian Red Cross is on the ground assisting communities affected by the fires. The Red Cross in Canada, in coordination with government authorities, has mobilized teams to support the response by opening shelters and comfort centers for people forced from their homes; providing people with basic necessities like food and clothing; and as the situation continues to develop, providing psychosocial support to affected individuals to help cope with hardship and loss.