Smoky air causing itchy eyes and an increase in breathing masks

Smoky air causing itchy eyes and an increase in breathing masks

WATCH: Poor air quality caused by forest fires is sending people to eye doctors and hardware stores.

Tuesday was another hazy, brown, smoky day across Vancouver Island.

The smoke was thick right down to sea level getting in our throats, chests and eyes. A Courtenay optometrist says he has been fielding more complaints about eye problems than usual.

“It’s one or two a day sometimes presenting for their routine eye exams but complaining about the smoke outside, other times actually coming in for an emergency-style eye exam,” said Dr. Mitchell Bunn of Iris Optometrists.

The smoke’s fine particles get in our eyes but Bunn says to try to avoid itching them and instead use a wet compress or over-the-counter teardrops to lubricate your eyes.

In some cases, the smoke can cause more serious eye problems.

“If the inflammation is pretty severe, we do strongly recommend that someone gets in to see their local optometrist like myself because very occasionally we do have to use prescription antihistamine or anti-inflammatory eye drops to get this under control before gets too bad,” he added.

Health officials say pregnant women and young children need to be more careful in the smoke as well.

Infants are born with more sensitive lungs which make them more susceptible to health problems and pregnant women when exposed to smoke can lead to lighter birth weights for their newborn which can also lead to longer-term health problems for the child.

Most people just want to breathe easier and many retailers are seeing breathing masks fly on the shelves.

“Very busy. It’s picked up business quite a bit and I hate to think the smoke has made our business better but we’re here to help them and we have the products here,” said Darrell Smith of Midland Tools in Courtenay.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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