As wildfires burn out of control and continue to spark throughout the B.C. Interior, thick smoke has made it difficult for some people to be outside.
A healthy person may feel irritation in their eyes and throat and may cough or have phlegm. But for people who may have pre-existing conditions like asthma or cystic fibrosis (CF), the thick smoke has become too much to handle.
Breanna Nathorst is a runner who caught COVID-19 in December last year. She said doctors have told her she has recovered, but the damage from the virus has left her unable to run as she used to.
Now, with all the wildfire smoke in the Central Okanagan, she said that even just walking her dog has been difficult.
“In the first couple of days when the smoke really first came, I had a really bad headache and migraines. I thought maybe I was dehydrated so I was drinking tons of water,” she said.
“But then my nose started hurting. It was kind of a dull aching pain throughout my nasal cavity and into my forehead, which was leading to my headaches.”
The constant coughs, sneezes, and headaches have been difficult to deal with and have been making her feel tired, Nathorst added.
“The wildfire smoke is basically exacerbating the symptoms I’ve been feeling as I’m recovering from COVID.”
To take care of her health, Nathorst said she hasn’t been running at all since the wildfires started and smoke blew in, as she didn’t want to keep stressing her lungs, now damaged by COVID-19.
Nicole Stringer is battling CF and even though she’s been doing well enough since being prescribed a trial drug, the wildfire smoke hasn’t been helpful.
“Honestly, this smoke is kicking my butt. It’s wiping me out to the point that I’ve had a couple of bad days,” she said.
“It’s really affecting my sinuses and my head and my chest and that’s zapping all of my energy.”
The last year had been challenging with her staying home as much as possible and her husband running all of the errands, during the pandemic, as she is immunocompromised.
Even though restrictions are easing and the pandemic is coming to a close, the smoke is forcing her indoors, making it unbearable to even go out for a short time. Although even being indoors doesn’t bring much relief, Stringer said.
“We have two air purifiers in the house, but it still smells like a campfire,” she said.
“I’m just trying to stay out of it as best I can.”
The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) advises that people should use at least an air filter in one area of the home to keep the air clean, visiting places like malls, libraries or community centres as they tend to have cleaner indoor air, drinking lots of water, and wearing an N95 respirator if you are working outdoors.
Other information on how you can keep yourself safe during this time is available at the BCCDC’S website.