News / Vancouver

Haze days: smoke and high heat prompt health warnings in Metro Vancouver

People with respiratory or cardiac conditions advised to avoid exertion, seek air-conditioned spaces

The Ironworkers Memorial Bridge and North Shore Mountains are lost in the haze on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017.

Jen St. Denis/Metro

The Ironworkers Memorial Bridge and North Shore Mountains are lost in the haze on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017.

Skies over Metro Vancouver are noticeably more smoky today, and health officials are warning people with chronic health conditions, the very young and the elderly to take precautions.

The poor air quality is due to wildfires that continue to burn in the Interior. This week, the smoke is coinciding with high temperatures, municipalities and health authorities are warning.

"With the extreme heat and the poor air quality, this can effect the very young and very old, people with health conditions, and particularly people who don’t have the ability to move to a cooler area because they’re socially isolated, physically immobile or have mental health issues," said Reka Gustavson, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, during a press briefing on Aug. 1.

The City of Vancouver will be setting up misting stations at four public parks (Thornton, Andy Livingstone, Emery Barnes, and Oppenheimer) to help people stay cool, and park rangers and lifeguards will be on the lookout for vulnerable people who may be suffering from the heat.

The parks board is also opening several community centres for people to be able to have a shower, a service targeted to those who are homeless or precariously housed.

"This is going to be some extreme heat, we’re asking citizens of Vancouver as well, if you are seeing people (in trouble) to notify a ranger or a lifeguard in the parks," said Mike Wiebe, chair of the parks board.

People suffering from heat exhaustion may have muscle camps, trouble breathing, feel nauseated or vomit.

"There are some warning signs of serious heat-related illness, which is actually a life-threatening condition and that is body temperature above 40 C," Gustavson said.

"People start to have neurological signs: they get dizzy, have difficulty walking, have difficulty communicating. We want to make sure people moderate their alcohol intake because the symptoms can be similar."

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