Air quality rendered unsafe following bush fires

Australian Bushfire

Residents of New South Wales and the east coast have been advised to avoid venturing outdoors as much as possible following the recent bushfires as the associated air pollution may be detrimental to their health. 

The 80 odd bushfires that have been raging across multiple states of Australia have left behind a thick, smoky haze amidst ash and leaves debris that have been scattered across the east coast.

Health officials warn those living in affected areas not to ignore the seriousness of the effects of the smoke on their well-being as the air quality deteriorates, especially for those already living with respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

Smoke as a result of any type of fire contains a mixture of chemicals and particles. Inhaling this for even a short amount of time can cause breathing difficulties as well as irritation to the throat, eyes, and nose. More serious repercussions of prolonged smoke inhalation include cardiovascular and severe lung damage.

NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan relayed to The Guardian that the smoke was causing a slight increase in emergency services. Morgan advises that those who rely on respiratory reliever medications such as inhalers should be ensuring that they have sufficient stock on hand to deal with the current crisis.

According to Asthma Australia, recent studies have confirmed just how toxic bushfire smoke is for those living with asthma, with women and those aged over 65 the most vulnerable.

Asthma Australia’s CEO Michele Goldman, says the five days of hazardous smoke quality Sydney experienced in May this year revealed that 81% of people experienced breathing difficulties due to the poor air quality.

If you are currently living in any of the affected areas, here are some steps you can take to breathe easier during this crisis:

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and keep all windows and doors firmly shut when there is smoke in the air and you are not directly in threat of the fire itself
  • If you rely on reliever medication, make sure you have enough on hand.
  • Use your air conditioner on recycling or recirculation mode if available
  • Become up to date with the 4 steps to asthma first aid in case of emergency
  • Keep your radio switched on to stay up to date with emergency service alerts
  • Those with acute respiratory illnesses should get in touch with their health fund to ensure that they are covered for Lung and Chest treatment.

2.7 million Australians live with asthma and many more with other forms of respiratory illnesses. Ms. Goldman says that people could help their neighbours and communities by being more aware and responsive to those living with asthma.

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