Smoke from the devastating bushfires is blanketing many parts of Victoria, including Melbourne.
“People with a heart or lung condition need to be very careful,” said Prof Trevor Williams, Director of Respiratory Medicine at The Alfred. “However, even apparently healthy people should take care.”
Prof Williams says it’s best to limit outside exertion/exercise.
“If you feel breathless or unwell please stop, rest and get inside. If you don’t feel better quickly seek medical advice.”
Most healthy people tolerate brief smoke exposure quite well.
Smoke is more likely to affect:
- those with heart or lung conditions
- pregnant women
- young children
- the elderly
Exposure to smoke may be a risk because it can:
- trigger asthma
- worsen heart disease
- reduce visibility and road safety
What to do when it’s smoky outside
If you see or smell smoke outside, you should stay inside if it’s safe to do so.
- keep your windows and doors shut
- switch your air conditioner to ‘recirculate’
- take a break from the smoky conditions – for example, visit a friend or go to a large air-conditioned location
- air out your house when the smoke clears
- look out for children, older people, and others at risk
- keep pets inside with clean water and food. Keep pets’ bedding inside if possible.
When it’s smoky, take care of your health. You can do this by:
- reducing physical activity
- following your treatment plan if you have a heart or lung condition
- following your asthma action plan
- seeing your doctor or calling NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 606 024 if you’re worried about your symptoms
- calling 000 if you experience chest tightness or difficulty breathing.
“Standard surgical type masks and handmade cloth masks offer little protection unfortunately,” said Prof Trevor Williams.
A podcast on the Better Health Channel by trauma experts Dr Rob Gordon and Anne Leadbeater shares valuable insights into coping with trauma in the context of bushfires. Listen here.