Wildfire smoke has become an increasing concern for all residents of Canada, especially those with health conditions such as asthma. Wildfire smoke contains many harmful pollutants, including fine particulate matter that settles deep in the lungs, worsening asthma symptoms.

Smoke from wildfires can travel thousands of kilometers, depending on the amount of fire and smoke, so even if you live far away from a wildfire, you may still experience health problems related to it.

If you are living with asthma, it is essential that you take precautions to keep yourself safe.

Our top tips for staying safe during wildfire season:

1. Stay informed:

Keep track of local air quality updates and wildfire information from reliable sources like Environment Canada, the Weather Network and the Government of Canada.

2. Have an updated Asthma Action Plan:

Your plan should outline steps to take in case of worsening asthma symptoms or emergencies. Download your plan now.

3. Limit outdoor activities:

Stay indoors as much as possible. Avoid physical exertion and exercise outdoors during peak pollution periods. If going outside is necessary:

      • Wearing a well-fitted N95 respirator mask can offer some protection against smoke particles. These can be purchased in certain pharmacies and online.
      • Keep your reliever (usually blue) inhaler with you at all times in case asthma symptoms arise.
      • When driving, keep your windows and vents closed and only use air conditioning in the “recirculate” setting.

4. Use air purifiers and filters in your home:

Use high-efficiency air purifiers (HEPA) and keep windows and doors closed to prevent smoke infiltration. If using an air conditioner, choose the recirculation setting so outside air will not be transferred inside. Avoid activities that contribute to indoor air pollution, such as smoking or using strong chemicals.

5. Take your medications as prescribed:

Make sure you have necessary medications and supplies readily available and follow your prescribed asthma medication regimen, including both preventive and rescue medications. If necessary, consult your healthcare provider to adjust your medication plan during episodes of poor air quality.

6. Stay hydrated:

Drink plenty of fluids to keep your airways hydrated. This can help reduce symptoms and keep mucus thin, making it easier to cough up if necessary.

    Asthma Canada's FREE Asthma & Allergy HelpLine

    If you have questions on managing your asthma and allergies during wildfire season, please contact our free HelpLine at 1-866-787-4050 or info@asthma.ca. Our team of asthma and allergy experts will happily assist you with your asthma control and help put your mind at ease.

    How Air Quality and Wildfires Affect Your Health - webinar for people living with asthma

    Join respiratory experts, Dr. Emily Brigham, Associate Professor, UBC, and Dr. Chris Carlsten, Director, Centre for Lung Health, to: 

    • Gain insights into the impact of air quality and wildfires on respiratory health. 
    • Get practical strategies for managing asthma on days with poor air quality, minimizing exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants, and protecting your lungs during wildfire season. 
    • Learn about lifestyle changes that promote better lung health and the importance of regular check-ups and medication adherence. 

      Asthma & Wildfires: FAQ

      What should I do in the event of an asthma attack during wildfire season?
      • Sit up straight. 
      • Take your reliever medication (most commonly a blue inhaler) as directed. Use your Asthma Action Plan for reference. 
      • Call 911 if your symptoms persist or worsen. Do this if you feel worse at any point or if there is no improvement after taking your medication. 
      • Follow-up with your doctor or health care provider. 

      An asthma attack can be a life-threatening emergency. That’s why it is important that you always carry your reliever (rescue) inhaler with you and never hesitate to call 911 if your symptoms persist. Download your FREE Asthma Attack Toolkit

        What should I do during an evacuation or emergency where I need to leave my house?

        If you live in an area that might need to evacuate due to forest fires or wildfires, be prepared. Carry your reliver (usually blue) inhaler with you at all times. The Government of Canada has some great information on how to prepare for wildfires.  

        Who is most affected by wildfire smoke?
        • Children, whose respiratory systems are still developing, are more vulnerable to smoke inhalation as they tend to breathe in more air, and consequently, more smoke, compared to adults.  
        • Elderly individuals are at a higher risk of having heart or lung conditions, rendering them more vulnerable to the effects of smoke. It’s important to take additional precautions, especially during forest fire season. 
        • Other groups who may face higher risk of health harms include Black and indigenous individuals and people of color (BIPOC), people experiencing poverty, people who are pregnant and those who work outdoors. 

        Carter Vigh's Story

        Tragically, wildfire smoke has claimed the lives of individuals
        living with asthma. Among them was Carter Vigh, a nine-year-old from
        British Columbia, whose asthma attack, triggered by wildfire smoke,
        resulted in his untimely death.

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        Over 4.6 million Canadians are living with asthma, a condition that worsens for many during wildfires. Your generous contribution will enable Asthma Canada to not only heighten awareness and deliver vital education on such critical issues but also advance our efforts in research aimed at ultimately finding a cure for asthma.

        Useful Resources

        Asthma Action Plan

        Your Asthma Action Plan will help you recognize when your asthma is worsening and when you should seek help.

        Asthma Attack Toolkit icon

        Asthma Action Plan for Kids

        Your Asthma Action Plan for Kids will help you recognize when your child’s asthma is worsening and when you should seek help.

        Asthma Control Toolkit

        Your Asthma Control Toolkit will help you take control of your asthma today