Inhaler visits have jumped due to record-setting smoke, pharmacist says

Some Calgary pharmacies are seeing more people than usual come in for help with inhalers because of smoke from wildfires.

Mark Percy says the past two weeks have shown the importance of pharmacists in relieving health-care strain

The smoke that was lingering over Calgary this month has caused an increase in pharmacy visits for inhalers, according to one pharmacist. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Some Calgary pharmacies are seeing more people than usual come in for help with inhalers because of smoke from wildfires.

"The last little while, probably the last two weeks, we're seeing more people with basically inflammatory lung conditions or COPD obstructive lung conditions coming in with flares, discussing shortness of breath with exertion, more so than usual," said Mark Percy, who works for the Mint Health and Drugs and is also on the board for the Alberta Pharmacists' Association.

"As well as people who were previously diagnosed with conditions but didn't need inhalers." 

He says, on average, each location of Mint has seen three or four people each day who have had flare-ups that they normally wouldn't see. 

Record-setting smoke

On Monday evening, Calgary set a record for the number of hours of smoke in a year, eclipsing the previous record set in 2017.

"The smoke itself, as the air conditions deteriorate, will impact a lot of people, but certain people will be impacted by even minor conditions," said Percy. 

"So if their asthma or COPD is not well controlled at baseline, even small changes could make a difference for them, for sure."

Preventing emergency visits

Percy thinks this is a perfect example of how pharmacists in Alberta, who are able to prescribe, can help alleviate strains on the health-care system. 

"It's an area that I think we've really seen an impact the last two weeks where patients otherwise would either continue to struggle with their respiratory conditions or go to emerg or walk-in [clinics]," he said. 

"So I think it's definitely showing our expertise and value in the system."