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Home in the haze: A first-hand report of staying safe while pregnant as smoke covers the sky

Right now, you can find me in my home office, working from the desk.

I'm pregnant, in my third trimester, and I'm following doctor's orders by staying inside. I live and work in Kingston and the air quality rating is particularly dangerous here.

Smoke from wildfires burning across both Ontario and Quebec blanket the skyline in Kingston, Ont., Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (Lars Hagberg/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Experts say people like me with underlying health issues are particularly vulnerable right now. Older people, asthmatic people and people with heart disease or other respiratory issues are also at risk.

That's because the tiny particles in the air from the wildfire smoke can get into the lungs.

I spoke with Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, a respirologist from Queen's University and Kingston Health Sciences Centre, who says for people like me who are pregnant, there is an increased risk of things like premature birth.

He says the advice for anyone with underlying health concerns is to stay inside.

"Stay indoors and avoid it if you can," he said to me. "Keep your windows and doors closed and if you have to go outside, ideally use a mask."

He says outside workouts should be avoided right now, but a quick errand is all right.

"The thing is not to be going out and spending a prolonged time in that exposure," he explained. "If you had, for some reason, to be out for hours, then wearing an N95 would be helpful."

Smoke from wildfires burning across both Ontario and Quebec blanket the skyline in Kingston, Ont., Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (Lars Hagberg/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Dr. Samir Gupta, a respirologist who spoke to CTV News, explains just how bad the smoke is.

"Spending a day out there, breathing in these tiny particles, is not dissimilar to breathing in a half-pack of cigarettes," he said. "So, that’s the extent of what we’re dealing with."

I'm not alone. The poor air quality has led to an increase in visits to the emergency room in Kingston and elsewhere. Dr. Gupta says that it is especially bad for those with asthma.

"Those patients will know what the experience of a flare-up is, with tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, cough, wheeze," he said. "These are the kinds of things where they may have a plan on how to manage that with a provider, but if things get out of control, they may need to seek help and that’s what we see."

In the meantime, I'm keeping an eye on air quality updates.

Experts say once that improves, we can all get back to our normal outdoor routines. Top Stories

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