Bushfire warning for asthma sufferers

We’ve only just reached the bushfire season, but it’s clear that this summer season is set to be one of our worst yet.
While fires rage throughout NSW, leaving many without homes, including our native wildlife, there are also major concerns for those of us not directly affected by the fires but by smoke inhalation.
The Asthma Foundation NSW has sounded a bushfire warning Australia wide, urging adults and children with asthma to be vigilant during fire conditions.
“While fire can damage property and threaten life, it can also seriously affect the health of people with medical conditions, especially those who live with asthma. Wood smoke is a prime trigger for what could be a potentially fatal asthma attack,” said CEO Michele Goldman.
Strong winds and hot conditions can fuel dangerous asthma conditions with thick wood smoke containing tiny particles that get deep into the lung cavity when exposed to such conditions.
Bushfire smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide which, when combined with sunlight and pollution causes a dangerous mix that’s linked to respiratory infections, especially in children.
The Asthma Foundation NSW asks asthmatics to consider moving away from bushfire areas where possible and to have their asthma medication close by at all times.
“It’s vital that asthmatics continue to take their preventer medication and carry their reliever medication with them at all times, in case of an emergency. Everyone with asthma should have a written action plan so they know how to respond if their asthma becomes worse,” Ms Goldman says.
Teachers at schools, day care centres and preschools are also being advised to remain highly vigilant during this time.
“We’re asking that schools keep a special eye on those students who have asthma. Allowing them to stay indoors, keeping windows closed and air conditioners off, excusing them from sporting activities and ensuring they’re carrying their reliever medication at all times are all particularly important.
“If a child is showing signs of distress and their medication is having no affect, call triple zero (000) immediately.”
If you are an asthma sufferer and are exposed to a wood fire, here is a list of action steps by The Asthma Foundation NSW:
  • Unless ordered to evacuate, stay indoors and close all windows and doors. If you have an air conditioner, switch it to recycle or recirculate.
  • Avoid physical activity outdoors when there’s smoke around. More activity means deeper breaths, so the particles are drawn further into the lungs.
  • If you’re in your car, switch the air system to recirculate to reduce your exposure to smoke.
  • Use your asthma action plan if your condition starts to get worse. If your symptoms aren’t improving with use of your reliever medication, seek medical assistance.
It’s important to note that ordinary face masks will not prevent harmful smoke inhalation.
For hourly information on air pollution levels, please visit the Department of Environment and Conservation website at environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms.
Asthma Australia, 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) or asthmaaustralia.org.au, offers advice, information and free Asthma Control Packs.

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