17 October 2013

​NSW Health is urging people to closely monitor and follow advice issued by Emergency Services this afternoon with several major fires burning across the state.

Air quality in many areas is likely to be reduced due to smoke particles becoming airborne and travelling great distances from the location of the bushfires.

Professor Wayne Smith, Director Environmental Health Branch, NSW Health, warns those with lung disease, and heart disease to closely monitor their symptoms.

“Already smoke from bushfires burning in the Blue Mountains region and Muswellbrook areas has been blown east to Sydney city and coastal suburbs” Professor Smith said.

“Particle levels are likely to be higher outdoors than indoors, so people sensitive to fine particles should limit the time they spend outside.”

These particles can cause a variety of health problems, such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation or runny nose and aggravate existing illnesses including bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.

NSW Health reminds people that children, older adults and people with heart and lung conditions are most susceptible to the effects of particle pollution.

“Bushfires can result in a large amount of smoke particles in the air, even great distances from the fires.” Professor Smith said.

“The best way to avoid breathing in the smoke is to remain inside with the windows and doors closed, preferably in an air-conditioned building.”

Asthma sufferers need to follow their Asthma Action Plan and take their relieving medication where necessary. If symptoms get worse, asthma sufferers need to seek medical advice.

“Fine particles can also irritate the lungs of healthy adults, so it is best to avoid any prolonged outdoor exercise” Professor Smith said.

With strong winds and high temperatures still hampering much of the state, NSW Health is also urging people to take the risk of heat-related illness seriously.

While heat-related illness may affect anyone, certain groups are particularly vulnerable.

These include the over 75s, infants and children, people with a chronic medical condition and people who live alone.

“Australians are accustomed to hot weather and generally consider themselves resilient to such conditions but heat related illness is a real threat” said Professor Smith.

“Every year, hot weather and heat waves cause illness, hospitalisations and sometimes even deaths.”

Further information on maintaining health during bushfires can be found at http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/emergency_preparedness/weather/Pages/Bushfire.aspx

People can have air quality alerts sent to them via SMS or email by visiting the Office of Environment and Heritage website and subscribing to Air Quality Index daily forecasts.

For more information on local air quality forecast and hourly air quality updates, visit the Office of Environment and Heritage website:
http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/index.htm

For more information about air pollution and health, visit the NSW Health website: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/air/Pages/default.aspx