Wildfire smoke still causing ‘high risk’ poor air quality in Sask.

Poor air quality in some Saskatchewan communities is still considered “high risk” or “very high risk” due to wildfires across the north.

As of Monday afternoon, the Government of Canada’s Air Quality Index lists Buffalo Narrows as very high risk, while Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert are high risk.

That’s despite cooler temperatures and rainfall over the weekend, which caused some relief for over 160 active wildfires in Saskatchewan.

Jaimie Peters is a registered nurse and certified respiratory educator with the Lung Association of Saskatchewan.

“Almost anyone can really struggle with the smoke: Irritated eyes, runny nose, headaches, worsening of allergies,” she said.

“Every summer, it seems like an ongoing concern here.”

Peters said wildfire smoke especially impacts people with lung disease, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), that’s not well-controlled or well-managed.

She said to watch for symptoms like increased coughing, wheezing or chest tightness.

Peters said the best thing you can do to limit your exposure to the smoke is to stay indoors, keeping windows and doors shut. It also helps to turn on your air conditioner.

If you do have to go outside, she said to limit exercise or other exerting activities.

Children are especially susceptible to the poor air quality because they have smaller lungs and need to breathe faster.

Peters said masks “really aren’t that helpful,” even N95s, if you’re not in the north and further away from the wildfires.

“They’re still not going to block all of the smaller particles in the air from the smoke, but especially if you’re near the fires themselves, it may be helpful for the larger particles. You do need to make sure you’re wearing them properly and wearing them fitted properly,” she said.

Anyone struggling with their breathing can call the Lung Association of Saskatchewan’s health line at 1-888-566-5864 and talk to a registered nurse.