Health official says listen to your body as Calgary deals with poor air quality due to wildfires

You are the best judge of how reduced air quality is affecting your health. That’s the message from an Alberta Health Services official as Calgary and much of southern Alberta deal with smoke from raging B.C. forest fires.

People with chronic health conditions should stay indoors with windows and doors closed, AHS official warns

Official urges caution for those with health issues 0:40

You are the best judge of how reduced air quality is affecting your health.

That's the message from an Alberta Health Services official as Calgary and much of southern Alberta deals with smoke from raging B.C. forest fires.

"Go outside, check to see if they smell smoke or can taste smoke in the air, and based on their circumstances, make decisions about going outdoors," Dr. David Strong, a medical health officer for the Calgary zone, said Monday.

"At this important time, for people with those chronic health conditions, even with what we've got right now, it's better for them to be indoors."

He recommends closing the windows and doors to keep the outdoor air from getting inside.

Calgary zone medical health officer Dr. David Strong says anyone with chronic health conditions should stay inside with the doors and windows closed while southern Alberta deals with reduced air quality from B.C. wildfires. (Radio-Canada)

Strong says air quality was at its worst around 10 a.m. Monday but it improved over the course of the day.

"We have a provincewide cautionary advisory. Right now, the Calgary area has got the worst in terms of air quality," he said.

For people in good health, there shouldn't be any problems, but those with chronic health conditions or young children should be aware of how the smoke is affecting them and consult with their doctor, Strong added.

An Alberta Health Service official says the air quality in Calgary was the worst at about 10 a.m. on Monday but has improved since. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

A Calgary family physician and urgent care doctor says it's not just people with lung problems who need to be alert.

"If you have asthma or a breathing problem or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or chronic bronchitis, then this potentially will affect you more," Dr. Raj Bhardwaj told Alberta@Noon.

Newborns, seniors most at risk

"Other than people with lung problems, I think people with heart problems also need to be aware. If it's harder for the lungs to get oxygen to the blood, then the heart has to work harder moving that oxygen around as well."

He says newborns and seniors could experience the air quality changes to a different degree.

"Newborns might be more sensitive, especially if they are born premature, because sometimes their lungs aren't fully developed."

By the early afternoon, the air quality in Calgary had improved. Smoke from the B.C. wildfires had covered the city earlier in the day. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Bhardwaj says for most people, just listen to your breathing.

"If you are having real trouble breathing, then that's not a bad idea to see a doctor — ever," he explained.

"More out of breath than usual," he added, elaborating on the degree of difficulty in breathing.

"If you are quite sedentary, you might not notice that, but you might notice that you can't speak in full sentences anymore. You might notice that you are more short of breath at the top of the stairs. You might notice that things that you could normally do without getting out of breath and feeling worn out, you might find that that has become tougher."

Calgarians were taking the particulates in stride.

Feckla Spaulding says there was soot on her car and barbecue on Monday morning. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"It was fairly hard to breathe outside," Feckla Spaulding said on a northwest pathway near Edworthy Park.

"We were wondering whether we were even going to walk today. We did about half of our walk, but coming back with the breeze it's not been bad at all. There was a lot of soot on the front of my car and on the barbecue this morning."

Donald Green says it was tough to breathe Monday morning. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Donald Green is an avid cyclist who braved the less-than-ideal conditions for a ride on Monday.

"It's a bit smoky," he said.

"I notice it affects my lungs a little bit and my breathing a little bit but not seriously. It's clearing off right now. This morning it was worse, of course."

With files from Alberta@Noon