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Asthma, Allergies & Better Breathing

6 Practical Steps to Keep Your Asthma Managed this Wildfire Season

As threats of wildfires spread across Canada, Asthma Canada is urging individuals living with asthma to take additional precautions for their safety. Wildfire smoke contains many harmful pollutants including fine particulate matter that settles deep in the lungs. For those with asthma and other respiratory conditions, wildfires present an escalated risk, as the smoke can worsen symptoms and provoke asthma attacks, which, in some cases, can be fatal. This grim reality was sadly illustrated in 2023 by the loss of Carter Vigh, who tragically lost his life at just nine years of age.

“Carter was incredible. He was the happiest kid you’d ever meet,” said Carter’s mother, Amber, ahead of the first anniversary of her son’s passing. “Living with severe asthma meant that Carter was no stranger to hospital visits; however, in general, we had his asthma well controlled. Everywhere Carter went, he carried his brief-kit, a lunchbox containing his medications and devices, which served as a constant reminder to everyone in our community of Carter’s condition.”

“Nothing could have prepared us for the day when Carter took his final breath. It was wildfire smoke that triggered the asthma attack that claimed my son’s life. I’m pleading with everyone affected by asthma across Canada to take every precaution to ensure your asthma is well-managed during this time of year. I cannot bear the thought of another family experiencing the heartbreak that mine did less than a year ago.”

To aid people living with asthma this wildfire season, Asthma Canada has created 6 Essential Tips for Keeping Well During Wildfire Season:

  1. Stay informed: Keep track of local air quality updates and wildfire information from reliable sources like Environment Canada, the Weather Network and the Government of Canada.
  2. Have an updated Asthma Action Plan: Your plan should outline steps to take in case of worsening asthma symptoms or emergencies. Download your plan now.
  3. Limit outdoor activities: Stay indoors as much as possible. Avoid physical exertion and exercise outdoors during peak pollution periods. If going outside is necessary:
  • Wearing a well-fitted N95 respirator mask can offer some protection against smoke particles. These can be purchased in certain pharmacies and online.
  • Keep your reliever (usually blue) inhaler with you at all times in case asthma symptoms arise.
  • When driving, keep your windows and vents closed and only use air conditioning in the “recirculate” setting.
  1. Use air purifiers and filters in your home: Use high-efficiency air purifiers (HEPA) and keep windows and doors closed to prevent smoke infiltration. If using an air conditioner, choose the recirculation setting so outside air will not be transferred inside. Avoid activities that contribute to indoor air pollution, such as smoking or using strong chemicals.
  2. Take your medications as prescribed: Make sure you have necessary medications and supplies readily available and follow your prescribed asthma medication regimen, including both preventive and rescue medications. If necessary, consult your healthcare provider to adjust your medication plan during episodes of poor air quality.
  3. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to keep your airways hydrated. This can help reduce symptoms and keep mucus thin, making it easier to cough up if necessary.

Asthma Canada recently hosted a FREE webinar; “Living with Asthma: How Air Quality and Wildfires Affect Your Health”, designed to assist the asthma community in navigating the complexities of managing their health amidst air quality and climate challenges. Attendees of the webinar were given insights into the impact of air quality and wildfires on respiratory health, gained practical strategies for managing asthma on days with poor air quality and learned about lifestyle changes that promote better lung health. Watch the webinar now.

“Recent evidence strongly indicates that with rising global temperatures, the exceptionally warm summer experienced in Canada last year is likely to become the new norm, raising significant concerns for the 4,600,000+ people living with asthma in the country,” emphasized Jeffrey Beach, President & CEO of Asthma Canada. “Last year we observed a notable increase in the volume of calls to our Asthma & Allergy HelpLine during wildfire season, highlighting the escalating concerns regarding asthma management.”

For those who have questions about their asthma, particularly during wildfire season, Asthma Canada recommends reaching out to their FREE Asthma & Allergy HelpLine at 1-866-787-4050 or [email protected] to speak to an asthma expert about all your asthma-related concerns.

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