Heading to a music festival or other outdoor event and worried about the smoke? If you’re attending outdoor events this summer in Western Canada, you’re probably aware that the air quality is poor due to a large number of wildfires burning in British Columbia.  This is also affecting the air in Alberta and even into Saskatchewan!  The good news is that you don’t have to cancel your plans because of the smoke… We have some tips for you before you head out to the festivals!

1.  When to call it quits

If you have a chronic breathing condition, such as asthma or emphysema, consider not attending an outdoor event in an area with poor air quality. (We know that nobody wants to hear it, but your health is more important than FOMO!)

2.  What to pack

If you have prescribed medications such as inhalers for your breathing condition, make sure you take them with you to the event. If you’ve traveled to an out of town event and discover you’ve forgotten your inhalers, you can go to the nearest local pharmacy and in most cases, the pharmacist can prescribe you an inhaler to get you by until you return home.

Pro Festival Tip: This applies to most prescription medications!

3.  Where to keep the goods

When packing your inhalers (and other meds) we recommend not burying them at the bottom of a suitcase or the dark abyss of a backpack.  Instead, keep them easily accessible at all times and take them as prescribed.

4.  Surgical face masks won’t help

N95 masks are designed to filter out particulates from the air but they work best when properly fitted.  Many safety companies offer “N95 Fit Testing” which includes training on applying them properly.  If you are part of a festival crew working outside, wearing an N95 mask can benefit you.  If you’re an event organizer, consider holding N95 Fit Testing for your work crews and providing them with properly sized respirator masks.  (Contact us if you would like more information on companies that offer the service!)

5.  Stay hydrated! 

Sure, water isn’t exciting and you’ve heard that you need to drink more water every day for as long as you can remember. We get it. But this really is super important because drinking water and staying hydrated will help reduce irritation to your mucous membranes and airways caused by the smoke in the air.

6.  Avoid excessive activity outdoors

If you’re heading to a music festival, we know you didn’t want to hear that either. But that excessive activity causes you to breathe faster and harder, increasing the amount of smoke – and particulates – entering your body. Do your best to take it easy.

7.  Smoke causing a sore throat?

Treat irritated throats with lozenges and hydration. Cough lozenges can help and we’re going to remind you again to drink more water. It really does make a difference!

8.  Smoke irritating your eyes?

If the smoke is bothering your eyes, consider avoiding contact lenses and sticking with glasses. Lubricating eye drops may provide some relief, bud don’t use anti-red-eye drops.  Before bed, consider flushing your eyes with sterile saline to remove irritants.

9.  Sore nose?

Using a saline nasal spray (not Dristan) or neti pot may help with nasal irritation.

Pro Tip: never use tap water with a neti pot.  Nobody likes a brain amoeba.

10.  Don’t add fuel to the fire

When the skies are smoky, your body is already taking in some interesting things. Consider avoiding or reducing things like smoking, vaping, etc. Your lungs and system already have a lot to deal with, so your capacity to cope with additional particulates is reduced.

If you have any questions about coping with poor air quality, feel free to get in touch.  As the summer event season starts to wind down, we hope everyone has a safe and healthy time!

– Stephani Laing, CEO, ACP