How to stay safe in smoky conditions

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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.

Now though, many people around Australia are impacted by the threat of smoke haze and thick smog.

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?

 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/ Territory Monitoring Site
NSW https://www.dpie.nsw.gov.au/air-quality
QLD https://apps.des.qld.gov.au/air-quality/
VIC https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/EPAAirWatch
TAS https://epa.tas.gov.au/epa/air/monitoring-air-pollution/real-time-air-quality-data-for-tasmania
ACT https://www.health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/population-health/environmental-monitoring/monitoring-and-regulating-air
SA https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/data_and_publications/air_quality_monitoring
NT http://ntepa.webhop.net/NTEPA/Default.ltr.aspx
WA https://www.der.wa.gov.au/your-environment/air/air-quality-index

What should I do to stay safe?

 

1. Stay indoors when you can

Victoria recorded the worst air quality in the world on January 14th 2020. 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. 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, make sure to keep your medication on hand in case you need it.

 

5. Keep an eye on weather alerts

Whether you check out your local Air Quality Report (see above) listen to the local radio station, or check updates on the internet or Facebook – make sure you are up to date with the latest news.

 

6. Consider using a mask

Specific face masks (P2 masks) are able to filter bushfire smoke and provide greater protection.

Keep in mind these masks can also make breathing more difficult, so it’s important to consult with your doctor before deciding to purchase and wear one.

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.

 

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