With the devastating wildfires still burning in our country, and more expected to come, many cities across the nation are dealing with the effects. Unfortunately, with the hazy air and discoloured skies comes disheartening levels of air quality, which can pose serious health hazards. Let’s take a look at the tools and ways you can deal with poor air quality in your area.

What is bad air quality, and why should I care?

With cities, such as Toronto, Muskoka and Simcoe, seeing some of the worst air quality in years, it can be difficult for people to cope with the side effects. They arise from the fine particles in wildfire smoke known as PM2.5. They are lightweight, extremely small and travel very far. An itchy throat and nausea from the smoke are only the beginning. What may come afterwards can be far worse. When these particles enter your bloodstream and lungs, they can cause inflammation, heart attacks, strokes and a plethora of other breathing issues longterm. In fact, The Scripps Institution of Oceanography recently did a study which stated that wildfire smoke is up to 10 times more harmful than pollutions, like car exhaust. Dealing with the effects of poor air quality can be tough. Luckily, isure has some tips for you on how to deal with the poor air quality.

1. Find out the air quality category in your area

When looking outside your window, you may notice the sky is hazy and an unusual colour. If you step outside, you may notice it smells similar to a campfire or burning plastic. In situations such as this, it is important to try your best to avoid going outside due to poor air quality. However, poor air quality is not always visibly noticeable. This is when you should refer your area’s Air Quality Index (AQI.) The AQI is a method of determining your air quality. It is divided into six categories, each with a different level of health concern. You can check the AQI in your area by using your go-to weather application on your phone or by searching the internet for an AQI in your area. The six categories of AQI are as follows:

AQI of 0-50 (Green): 

Air quality is satisfactory and does not pose any risks.

AQI of 51-100 (Yellow):

Air quality is acceptable. With this being said, those with sensitivity to poor air quality, (i.e. those with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),) may begin to experience side effects.

AQI of 101-150 (Orange):

Those who suffer from respiratory illnesses, like asthma or COPD, may experience chest tightness, an inability to catch their breath or sudden differences. However, the general public is less likely to be affected.

AQI of 151-200 (Red): 

Some members of the general public may experience side effects of poor air quality. Those with respiratory illnesses may experience more serious side effects.

AQI of 201 to 300 (Purple):

This is when a health alert will be issued. The risk of side effects due to poor air quality is now increased for everybody. General public may experience symptoms, such as a scratchy throat, runny nose, itchy eyes and/or nausea.

AQI of 301 and higher (Maroon):

This is the highest level of AQI. The air quality is considered hazardous and everybody is more than likely to be affected by the poor air quality. Stay indoors!

2. Stay indoors when air quality is poor

Generally, if the AQI in your area is above 150, you should avoid going outside and stay inside as much as possible. Daily tasks, such as simply running errands, should be postponed until the air quality has improved. People who generally exercise or go for runs should also postpone these activities. Getting your heart rate up and breathing heavily will result in a large inhalation of dangerous PM2.5 particles, which are considered dangerous.

3. Wear an N-95 mask when air quality is poor

We understand that sometimes you need to run out of the house, grocery shop or attend an appointment that can’t be postponed. If you need to leave with bad air quality outdoors, you should wear an N-95 mask. We know many people have stopped wearing masks since covid measurements have dropped, but it is highly recommended to stay healthy. It’s a great way to use any leftover masks you may have hanging around! This is especially true for people with respiratory illnesses. Due to how small PM2.5 particles are, cloth and paper masks may not provide full protection. N-95s will protect 95 percent of particles. If a cloth or paper mask is all you have, they will provide mild protection at best.

4. Minimize your indoor exposure from outdoor air quality

There are many things that can be done to the inside of your house to minimize your exposure to the poor air quality outside. First and foremost, it is important to keep all your windows and doors closed as to not let in bad air in from outside. If your windows have cracks, it is recommended to use a damp towel to cover them, limiting airflow.

Air purifiers and air filters are also your best friend when it comes to improving the air quality indoors. If you do not own one, you can run your central air conditioning. This is recommended since most modern central air conditioning units will have an air filter that can help keep your indoor air particle-free.

5. How to keep your health at optimal levels

When the air quality is poor due to wildfires, we may experience many side effects. This can be the case, even if we spend minimal time outdoors. Luckily, there are many home remedies that can help you get back to feeling in tip-top shape.

To begin, it is crucial you stay hydrated. Due to the fires, the air is extremely dry and windy. By drinking lots of water, you can prevent having your skin, eyes and mouth from becoming dry and uncomfortable. Water and hot liquids, such as tea, can also prevent a scratchy throat. On top of this, hydrating moisturizers can help keep your skin safe from smoke particles and keep it from feeling dry. If the smell of the fires makes you nauseous or bothers you, you can dab essential oils under your nose or use a strong-scented chapstick to mask the smell.

These smoke-filled days can be stressful, and may also worsen symptoms of anxiety. This will worsen the health effects of smoke exposure. Additionally, it can be an upsetting reminder of climate change and our overheating planet. It is super important to stay calm and remember that these fires, and the poor air quality associated with them, will pass with time!

From all of us at isure, stay safe! If you need to make a wildfire claim or have any questions about your coverage, give us a call today.

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