Bushfires

  • Bushfire - large Summer time in Australia can be particularly problematic for people with asthma. Wood smoke from hazard reduction burns and bush fires contain harmful gases. These include carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and a range of organic compounds, any of which could irritate sensitive airways and trigger asthma.

    Children, the elderly, and people with asthma and other breathing problems are usually the first to feel the effects of smoke and particle pollution so they need to take extra care during summer.

    What can I do to minimise my exposure?

    Hazard reduction burns to reduce the threat of bushfires occur in most Australian states and territories in late winter or spring. These are usually publicised through local newspapers and radio and there is often a timetable on the rural fire service (or similar organisation) website for each state.

    Tips for staying safe and well

    During bushfire season you should:

    • Visit your doctor to update your Asthma Action Plan prior to the burn-off/bushfire season.
    • When there is smoke from fires in the area, unless you are advised to evacuate you should stay indoors, close all windows and doors and block all air vents and use a filtered air conditioner to circulate air.
    • Avoid doing physical activity outdoors when there is smoke around.
    • Continue using your preventer medication as prescribed on your written Asthma Action Plan and ensure you have plenty of reliever medicationwith you at all times.
    • Keep an extra reliever puffer with your most precious papers or photographs or evacuation kit to ensure it goes with you if you need to leave suddenly. Do not keep an inhaler in your car as extreme heat may make your medication ineffective. Some medication canisters can also explode under intense heat conditions in cars.
    What should I do if I am exposed to bushfire smoke?

    If you do have to go outside when there is bushfire smoke:

    • Stay low to the ground, and wear a face mask or thick cloth that firmly covers your nose and mouth to prevent breathing in a large amount of smoke.
    • If you are exposed to smoke and your reliever medication isn’t controlling your asthma symptoms, start asthma first aid and get medical help as soon as you can.

    Note: Even after a fire has passed, you still need to be careful as large fires may smother an area with smoke haze for days. After the fire, wear a face mask or cloth, and wet down any dry, dusty areas before doing any cleaning up.

    Wheezing, coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with asthma and other lung conditions need to very carefully monitor and manage their asthma and seek medical attention if increased symptoms persist.

    Bushfire volunteers, emergency personnel and media representatives 

    Because of their long and intensive exposure to fire, heat and smoke, many volunteers working in bushfire affected regions have an increased risk of asthma attacks. If you have asthma, make sure other volunteers around you know you have asthma in case you need help. Make sure you take plenty of breaks to get away from smoke and rest indoors wherever possible.

    Note: Be especially careful to make sure you have reliever medication with you at all times.

    For more information contact your Asthma Foundation on 1800 645 130

    In NSW, there are the following resources:

     

Please let us know which state you are in so we can provide you with the most relevant information: