Bushfires, air quality and asthma

Struggling with the air quality due to bushfire smoke at the moment?

What should you do:

- Seal up your home/ work place

- Check on at risk neighbours, help them to do the same with their home

- Minimise outdoor exposure during this time

- Use a fitted P2 mask if required to be outdoors for periods of time

- Asthmatics to put their plan into action

- Visit your GP if symptoms persist or worsen, in an emergency call 000

Vulnerable people — such as those aged under 14 or over 65, those with diabetes or heart/lung diseases and pregnant women, children 14 and under, and people over 65 years old — have been urged to minimise smoke exposure by staying indoors.

If they need to be outside, it has been advised they should wear P2 or N25 masks.

The bushfire smoke blanketing NSW and VIC is expected to persist for at least the first half of the week, as air pollution in the cities worsens to "very poor" levels.

Victoria's chief health officer Dr Sutton said asthmatics should put their asthma management plan into action, and those who did not have a plan should see a doctor to get one.

He said symptoms could also appear in people with undiagnosed asthma.

"People with ongoing cough, wheezing, tightness of the chest, may have asthma and should see a GP," he said.

P2 and P3 face masks

While the government has released P2 and P3 masks to at risk communities and those working the front lines, the best suggestion is still to close up your home and seal any leaks.
Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, said wearing the masks was not an alternative to avoiding smoke – and people in affected communities should remain indoors wherever possible.

Dr Sutton said face masks were "not a cure-all", but he said P2 masks could act as additional protection for vulnerable people forced to be outside.

If you can still smell smoke constantly within the house, after sealing up as best you can, it is a good idea to get some respite at a local shopping centre or library.

Additional Resources:

Asthma management in the bushfire season

Air Pollution in Australia: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map

Main image: Jens Johnsson