Staying safe from bushfire smoke

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bushfire in TasmaniaTasmanians suffering from breathing difficulties – including asthma – have been warned to take extra care as more than 80 bushfires are blanketing large parts of the state in smoke.

While no communities are currently under threat from the fires, residents – particularly the elderly and young – are encouraged to be particularly vigilant and remain indoors with their windows and doors closed to minimise their exposure.

Air conditioners and heat pumps should be set to the ‘recycle’ mode and outdoor activities should be kept to a minimum.

Asthma Foundation of Tasmania educator Debra Banks said asthma sufferers should carry their medication with them at all times, follow their asthma plan and call an ambulance if they have any concerns.

According to the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services, smoke particles are the main health concern in bushfires, and planned burns can lead to a rapid rise in the concentration of smoke particles. Often the peaks are brief, but some can last for hours or even days depending on the type of fire and weather conditions.

“These particles are very small – around 30 times finer than a human hair – so they can be breathed deep into the lungs and can even get into the blood,” it said in an online public health alert released earlier this week.

The alert listed several steps people can take should they believe they will be impacted by the smoke. They include:

  • Follow your asthma action plan, or your plan for managing flare-ups of other health conditions. If you don’t have a plan, see your GP to prepare one.
  • If your symptoms get worse, get immediate medical advice or care.
  • Avoid physical activity outdoors. Activity increases breathing so you inhale more smoke particles and
  • Stay indoors with windows and doors closed where possible and avoid other sources of pollution such as cigarette smoke, candles, wood stoves, or fine dust from sweeping or vacuuming.

More information is available at

It is also a good idea to check on any elderly or vulnerable neighbours you may have to ensure that they are comfortable in smoke affected areas, particularly if you live in rural or remote communities.

Image by Toni Fish via Flickr.

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