Skip to main content

Wildfire smoke


Wildfire smoke is a form of air pollution that can affect your health.

Health effects of wildfire smoke


Read the health effects of wildfire smoke and ways to reduce exposure.

Click the image to view and download the poster. 



Smoke contains very small particles of pollution – known as particulate matter or PM – that travel deep into your lungs when you inhale. These particles can cause irritation and inflammation. Of all the pollutants in wildfire smoke, particulate matter poses the greatest risk to health.  Learn more about the composition of wildfire smoke from this BCCDC fact sheet.

Most symptoms can be managed without medical attention:

  • Sore throat
  • Eye irritation
  • Runny nose
  • Mild cough
  • Phlegm production
  • Wheezy breathing
  • Headaches

Some people may experience more severe symptoms and should seek prompt medical attention. Call HealthLink BC (8-1-1), talk to your primary care physician or visit a walk-in clinic if you're experiencing:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe cough
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations

People at higher risk

Different people respond differently to smoke, and some people are at higher risk of experiencing health effects. Reducing exposure to wildfire smoke is especially important for the following groups of people:

  • People with pre-existing chronic conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, and diabetes
  • People who are pregnant
  • Infants and small children
  • Elderly
  • People who have been diagnosed with a respiratory infection

Other people can be affected by wildfire smoke too. Everyone responds differently, so listen to your body and reduce your exposure if the smoke is affecting you. 

Protect yourself from wildfire smoke

The best way to protect against the potentially harmful effects of wildfire smoke is reduce your exposure to smoke and seek cleaner air:


The Air Quality Health Index tool

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) is a tool designed to help people understand how air quality can affect their health, and how they can protect themselves when air quality is poor. The index is based on measurements of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and other pollutants in the air, and is reported across BC. Learn more about how the index is calculated from this BCCDC Fact Sheet

AQHI_Risk_table.jpg 

Air quality monitoring data

Air quality advisories and bulletins

Watch for these air quality notifications issued in the VCH region:

Within Metro Vancouver

  • An air quality advisory is issued by Metro Vancouver when air quality over a large portion of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District temporarily deteriorates, or is expected to deteriorate soon. 

Outside of Metro Vancouver

  • The Smoky Skies Bulletin is issued by BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy when areas of the province are being impacted or have reasonable potential to be impacted by wildfire smoke within 24 to 48 hours.
SOURCE: Wildfire smoke ( )
Page printed:

Copyright © Vancouver Coastal Health. All Rights Reserved.