As bushfires continue to rage across south-eastern Australia, AMA Vice-President, Dr Choong-Siew Yong, today cautioned people with asthma or other respiratory and cardiac conditions to take extra care during periods of smoke haze.
'Smoke generated by bushfires can be dangerous to anyone's health, but that's particularly true for people with pre-existing respiratory or heart conditions,' Dr Yong said.
'Large airborne particles such as embers can irritate the nose, throat and lungs.
'Small particles can be breathed in and damage the lungs.'
Signs of smoke irritation include a sore throat, itchy eyes, runny nose and coughing.
'In healthy adults, the effects of short term exposure to smoke will clear up fairly quickly once the smoke has gone away,' said Dr Yong.
'But if you're asthmatic, the air pollution can be a catalyst for symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and chest tightness.
'Likewise, people with heart and lung conditions, children, the elderly, and smokers, are more sensitive to the effects of inhaling small particles.'
Dr Yong urged people to protect themselves from exposure to bushfire smoke by:
Staying indoors with closed doors and windows
- Using the 'recycle' or 'recirculate' setting on air conditioners
- Minimising outdoor physical activity
'If there's a break in smoky conditions, open windows and doors to freshen the air inside the house,' he said.
'As well as taking the above measures, people with lung and heart conditions should continue to follow their personal treatment plan, and seek medical attention if their condition worsens or if they experience difficulty breathing or chest pain.
'If you have asthma, you should make sure you have a written asthma management plan and plenty of medication on hand, and, if you live in a bushfire-prone zone, make asthma management part of your fire safety survival plan.
'You will protect your health best by not staying to defend your home from fire, and by making sure that if you have to evacuate, you remember to take your medication with you.'