People are being reminded to take care of themselves during the bush fires.
People are being reminded to take care of themselves during the bush fires. Marc Stapelberg

Smoky skies prompt health warning for asthmatics

ASTHMA suffers and people with respiratory problems are being urged to make their health a priority during the bush fires.

The North Coast Public Health Unit is advising residents to take precautions while bushfire smoke affects local air quality and hot weather is forecast.

With strong winds in effect, there's a chance of fine smoke particles, which can affect the human cardiovascular and respiratory systems and can aggravate existing chronic health conditions by penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the blood system, travelling far distances to non-fire effected areas.

Acting Director of North Coast Public Health Unit, Greg Bell, said the particles can cause health problems such as itchy or burning eyes, throat and nose irritation and illnesses such as bronchitis.

"We urge people with chronic respiratory or cardiac conditions to be aware of the effects of exposure to bushfire smoke and to take steps to protect their health," Mr Bell said.

"Smoke exposure can lead people with lung disease or chronic bronchitis to develop shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, many days after smoke is inhaled. We recommend these people closely monitor their symptoms and follow their asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) action plan."

Mr Bell advised residents, particularly those sensitive to smoke, to stay indoors until the air clears and avoid strenuous exercise or heavy outdoor work where possible.

"Symptoms can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with chronic respiratory and cardiac conditions need to be vigilant with their medication or treatment programs," Mr Bell said. "If symptoms do not settle, contact your doctor."

Mr Bell also advised residents to take precautions during the predicted hot weather.

"Remember to drink plenty of water, stay in cool areas or visit air conditioned locations, and look out for neighbours and family members who may be vulnerable."

Healthy adults may also feel the effects of fine smoke particles that can irritate the lungs, but generally any symptoms will clear after the smoke disappears.

In the event of an emergency, always remember to dial Triple Zero (000).

For tips on dealing with hot weather, visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/beattheheat/Pages/default.aspx.

For more information about bushfire smoke, visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/air-factsheets.aspx.



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