PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY: Air Quality – How to minimise the health risks of wildfire smoke during prolonged dry season

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has noted the occurrences of wildfires/grass fires in Georgetown and other parts of the country as a result of the prolonged dry season. Wildfire smoke is a mix of gases and microscopic (fine) particles from burning trees and plants, buildings, and other materials. These particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system very easily.

During wildfires/grass fires, the smoke can make outdoor air unhealthy to breathe and can be unsafe, especially for children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with heart disease and those with respiratory (lung) conditions such as Asthma, Bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), etc. Smoke from outdoors can also enter your home and make it unhealthy to breathe indoor air.

Prolonged exposure to smoke may cause:

          Coughing

          Trouble breathing

          Wheezing

          Asthma attacks

          Stinging eyes

          Scratchy throat

          Runny nose

          Irritated sinuses

          Headaches

          Tiredness

          Chest pain

          Fast heartbeat

What Can You Do Now to Protect Yourself and Family from Wildfire Smoke? The MOH advises that you take the necessary measures to reduce your exposure to the smoke. It is important that you:

    Keep smoke outside as much as possible. Keep windows and doors closed and choose a room you can close off from outside air.

    If you are outside, reduce your smoke exposure by wearing a N95 OR KN95 face mask. Ensure it fits tightly over your nose and mouth at all times.

    Wash your skin or eyes with water if you are in direct contact with smoke or ash, as it may produce irritation.

    Avoid activities that create more fine particles indoors, including burning candles or incense; smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products; frying or broiling food; using gas, wood-burning stoves, or aerosol sprays and or vacuuming.

    If you have a central air conditioning system, use high-efficiency filters to capture fine particles from smoke. If your system has a fresh air intake, set the system to recirculate mode or close the outdoor intake damper.

    Avoid strenuous activity during smoky times to reduce how much smoke you inhale.

    Air out your home by opening windows or the fresh air intake on your AC system when the air quality improves.

    If you are sensitive to smoke, actively monitor symptoms and follow your health plan recommended by their doctor.

    If you experience sudden or worsening difficulty breathing and chest pain please visit your nearest health facility for medical assistance.

    Keep yourself informed and updated on the situation from reliable sources.

    Check on neighbors, friends, and family members, especially those who may be more vulnerable to the health effects of wildfires, and offer assistance if needed.

    Remember to guard your mental health by remaining calm an avoiding anxiety and heightened stress during this period.

Be ready to protect yourself against smoke and ash before, during, and after a wildfire.

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