Heavy smoke from wildfires continued to blanket Salmon Arm on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Heavy smoke from wildfires continued to blanket Salmon Arm on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Shuswap residents right to blame smoke for recent feeling of fatigue

Salmon Arm doctor says mental health might also be a contributing factor

If you’ve been feeling unusually tired as of late with all the smoke in the air, you’re not alone.

Over the past few weeks, with heavy smoke from wildfires in B.C. blanketing communities in the Shuswap and throughout the Southern Interior, people have been asking on local social media groups if others have been feeling an abnormal sense of fatigue or exhaustion.

According to Interior Health, it is possible wildfire smoke is the cause. The heavy smoke makes it more difficult to get oxygen into your lungs, which can lead to fatigue. Wildfire smoke can also irritate your respiratory system, with the resulting inflammation also causing fatigue.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spoke to this during an Aug. 3 Emergency Management B.C. update. She noted exposure to the smoke can cause other symptoms: eye irritation, runny nose, sore throat, mild cough and feeling like you have phlegm in your throat, wheezy breathing and headaches.

Read more: Doctors, air pollution experts forecast worsening health effects of wildfire smoke

Read more: University of B.C. study warns wildfire smoke could make COVID-19 symptoms worse

“These are very common and usually can be managed on their own. But for some people, they can have more severe symptoms, like shortness of breath, severe cough, dizziness, chest pains, heart palpitations or heart racing,” said Henry. “If you have those conditions, particularly for somebody with a history of lung or heart problems, then you should seek medical attention, whether that’s calling 811, whether it’s talking to your healthcare provider, or if you are experiencing extreme shortness of breath, calling 911.”

In addition to the physiological affects of the smoke, Salmon Arm Dr. Warren Bell suggested the fatigue might also be a due to the impact the wildfires are having on people’s mental health.

”I would be inclined to say the bigger effect is probably on people’s minds, the idea that the fires are consuming lots and lots of the ecosystem and the places in which we live…,” said Bell. “I think it’s pushing people into places that they weren’t really wanting to go… A wildfire is powerful influence on your mind without giving you somewhere to vent.”

Bell suggested the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the wildfires and the impact of climate change are forcing people to consider their future, about what is important and the potential challenges ahead.

Regarding the current challenge of wildfire smoke, Henry said the best thing one can do is avoid exposure to it by not going outside if possible, keeping windows closed, having some form of air filtration in your home if possible, or staying with a neighbour or friend, or visiting public places with cleaner air.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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B.C. Wildfires 2021wildfire smoke