Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Bushfire smoke: what you can do to stay healthy

Bushfire smoke 125It’s not just people in immediate danger zones that should be worried about bushfires – smoke can travel across large areas, and is known to have serious effects on health.

While otherwise healthy people can tolerate being exposed to bushfire smoke for short periods of time, there are several at-risk segments of the population that should be extra careful during bushfire season.

Those with a pre-existing heart or lung condition, pregnant women, young children and the elderly are recommended to take precautionary measures to ensure they stay healthy while smoke is in the air.

In an article written for the Conversation, Dr Martine Dennekamp, (MonCOEH), and Dr Fay Johnston (Menzies Research Institute Tasmania), recommended several ways of reducing the harmful health effects of bushfire smoke.

The most effective way to stay out of danger is to leave town for whatever period of time bushfire smoke is present around the home.

Of course, though, this isn’t a viable option for many people, and there are many simple ways to increase the likelihood of staying healthy in the home.

Dr Dennekamp and Dr Johnston recommend closing all doors and windows, avoiding exercise as this causes deeper breathing, setting air-conditioners to ‘recycle’ to keep out outside air, using an air-conditioning filter if possible, and leaving the home for a shopping centre or other indoor area if you are beginning to feel the effects of bushfire smoke in the home.

High efficiency particle air filters (HEPA filters) also significantly reduce the potential damage of bushfire smoke in the home.

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