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How to stay safe in smoky conditions as an older person.

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The current fires in Australia have been terrible in their own right, with many communities being forced to fight, protecting their lives and properties. With plenty of client impacted we wanted to put together some information about how to stay safe in smoky conditions as an older person.

Many people around Australia are impacted by the threat of smoke haze and thick smog and bushfire smoke poses a whole range of health risks. These range anywhere from mild symptoms like sore eyes, nose and throat to more complex issues for people with pre-existing respiratory or heart conditions.

Considering these risks, The Heart Foundation has urged older Australians who live with heart failure to stay inside. But with fires expected to continue for some months, along with the smoky haze they bring, it’s a good idea to have some practical tips for coping with this reality.

Are you at risk to stay safe in smoky conditions?

The smoke caused by bushfires primarily irritates the respiratory system. This is because it contains tiny particles that are able to travel deep inside our lungs and cause serious damage.

If you suffer from pre-existing lung or heart problems, you are most at risk. If you are in one of these categories, it’s important to take extra care on days where there is a lot of smoke and always have your medication (or treatment plan if you have one) accessible.

Asthma Australia has recently called on all states to provide air quality reporting as the number of asthma ambulance call-outs has increased by 50 per cent in Victoria and NSW due to bushfire smoke.

How do I access the Air Quality Report?

State/ TerritoryMonitoring Site
NSWhttps://www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/air-quality
QLDhttps://apps.des.qld.gov.au/air-quality/
VIChttps://www.epa.vic.gov.au/EPAAirWatch
TAShttps://epa.tas.gov.au/epa/air/monitoring-air-pollution/real-time-air-quality-data-for-tasmania
ACThttps://www.health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/population-health/environmental-monitoring/monitoring-and-regulating-air
SAhttps://www.epa.sa.gov.au/data_and_publications/air_quality_monitoring
NThttp://ntepa.webhop.net/NTEPA/Default.ltr.aspx
WAhttps://www.der.wa.gov.au/your-environment/air/air-quality-index

What should I do to stay safe in smoky conditions?

 

1. Stay indoors when you can.

Victoria recorded the worst air quality in the world on January 14th 2020 and this has resulted in authorities telling vulnerable people to stay indoors to avoid breathing in smoke particles.

 

2. Keep your windows and doors closed.

Seal gaps with wet towels or tape and keep all openings closed to avoid smoke from entering the house. Also, if you have an air conditioner, turn it on and switch it to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate.’

 

3. Go for a day trip. 

If your house is a little warm, consider heading out to an air-conditioned shopping centre or library. Or you could even go to the cinema and see a movie.

4. Keep your medication close by.

If you are someone that suffers from a respiratory or heart condition you need to make sure to keep your medication on hand in case you need it. If the forecast is looking dangerous, ensure you have back up stocks of your medication and it is accessible to you.

5. Keep an eye on weather alerts.

Whether you check out your local Air Quality Report, listen to the local radio station, or check updates on the internet and social media. You need to make sure you are up to date with the latest news. This is a great way to ensure you can stay safe in smoky conditions, or avoid them entirely. Fire season is often when it’s hot, so it’s important to keep your safety in mind when the weather heats up too. We’ve put together a blog post with some tips for this: https://letsgetcare.com.au/while-its-heating-up-outside-heres-how-to-stay-cool/

6. Consider using a mask.

Specific face masks (P2 masks) are able to filter bushfire smoke and provide greater protection but keep in mind these masks can also make breathing more difficult. That’s why it’s important to consult with your doctor before deciding to purchase and wear one. This can help ensure that you the air you are breathing is as filtered as possible and help you stay safe in smoky conditions.

For more information on the P2 mask you can check out the following fact sheet:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/face-mask.aspx

 

With conditions being as they are, it’s important to stay alert and in the know. If you have any health concerns it’s always a good idea to consult with your Doctor. We hope this has helped you with how to stay safe in smoky conditions.

 

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