911 calls for breathing problems up since smoky haze arrived in Lower Mainland

Aug 4 2017, 6:32 am

The proportion of emergency calls due to breathing problems has increased in the Lower Mainland since the smoky haze blew in from the BC wildfires.

According to BC Ambulance Service paramedic Joe Acker, 7% of 911 calls made this week were due to breathing difficulties, compared to 5% usually.

Acker said the service usually gets at least 1,500 calls a day. That means the service has received an average of about 105 calls about breathing issues every day.

“Most of these are associated with pre-existing problems, that’s almost exclusively what we’re seeing,” Acker told Daily Hive by phone.

But whilst it is mostly older people with emphysema and chronic bronchitis, said Acker, he is seeing young people with asthma suffering too.

And he said, while a pre-existing condition can make you more sensitive to the haze, some people are just naturally more affected without any previous issues.

He advises anyone feeling concerned for their health to stay indoors and keep cool.

“Stay inside, the air quality is better. Use your fans, use your air conditioners… drink lots of fluid,” said Acker, who added that the heat is proving an extra challenge for many people.

“If you don’t have access to staying cool in your own building, like in a lot of old apartments in Vancouver, go to the public library and take a time out.”

Acker also suggested going for a walk in the mall, having a coffee inside, or heading into a movie theatre “to get some fresh air.”

Knowing when to call 911 is also important, he said.

“If someone is having severe breathing problems, or chest pain, don’t hesitate to call 911,” said Acker.

However, he said, if you think you just need advice to help you get through your symptoms, call HealthLinkBC on 8-1-1 to speak to a registered nurse.

“They can provide some self-care advice or advice about when to see a physician or not,” said Acker.

“They will also know when a situation is urgent and can direct the caller directly to the 911 centre.”

Jenni SheppardJenni Sheppard

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