May 30, 2018

Look after your lungs around wood fire smoke

While it may not be peak bush fire season, Lung Foundation Australia is warning people to look after themselves and be aware of extra pollutants in the air as smoke descends on Sydney, following days of hazard reduction burning.

Bush fires remain a threat in Australia all year round and controlled burning may be necessary in preparation for bush fire season, so it’s important people remain aware and vigilant of the risks to their lung health, and what they can do to protect themselves.

Lung Foundation Australia CEO Heather Allan said people who have poor lung health should try to minimise their exposure to wood fire smoke and pollutants.

“Smoke and pollutants in the air can penetrate deeply into the lungs and irritate the airways causing symptoms in people with existing problems such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma to worsen, including wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing,” she said.

“Children, the elderly, smokers and people with pre-existing illnesses such as heart or lung conditions (including asthma) are more sensitive to breathing in fine particles from smoke.

“Particularly sensitive to changes in air quality are those with chronic lung disease, such as COPD, bronchiectasis and asthma.

“COPD Action plans guide patients and carers in recognising when their symptoms change and what action they should take.

“We also encourage people with other chronic lung diseases to make sure they have an action plan and that it is up-to-date and ensure any medicines are current.”

Where possible, people with poor lung health in the areas affected by wood fire smoke should:

  • Avoid physical activity outdoors while smoke is in the area
  • Rest more frequently and keep away from the smoke where possible
  • Follow their action plans and treatment advised by their doctor and keep their medicines close to hand
  • Close windows and doors to minimize smoke in their home
  • Switch their air conditioner (if they have one) to recycle or recirculate
  • Have their emergency plan ready in the event of an evacuation or the loss of essential services (such as power loss) during bush fires.

Key contact numbers for more information

Report all fires to Triple Zero – 000

For general health advice, call healthdirect Australia – 1800 022 222

Lung Foundation Australia – 1800 654 301