Australia needs to urgently do more to improve its public health response to the bushfire smoke choking cities, a health and air quality expert says.
Australian National University’s Professor Sotiris Vardoulakis has created a fact sheet to help Australians limit their exposure to smoke.
Professor Vardoulakis said there was an overwhelming amount of health advice available, with most of it tailored on brief exposure despite the ongoing crisis.
“This is not normal, and we need to urgently do more,” Professor Vardoulakis said.
“This new situation requires a rapid and well-targeted health protection response.”
The fact sheet lists 10 ways for Australians to protect themselves from smoke exposure, with number one being stay indoors.
This included avoiding burning candles or incense, using an air purifier or air conditioner to filter air and plugging up gaps in windows or doors.
Professor Vardoulakis recommended Australians update their medications, including ventolin, as well as reduce their physical activity outdoors.
Facemasks like P2 or N95 facemasks to filter out particulate matter in the air help, but weren’t appropriate for kids or people with breathing difficulties.
People were told to “trust their senses”, if they could smell and see smoke, it meant the air was hazardous and they should stay indoors.
Professor Vardoulakis also recommended people keep well by working at home, keeping hydrated, eating healthily and even adding antioxidant supplements to their diet.
Australians should take care of their mental health by talking openly with family and friends, using helplines or speaking to their GP.
“Understandably, bushfires and smoke have caused a lot of stress and anxiety in our communities,” Professor Vardoulakis said.
The fact sheet recommended staying up to date on bushfire news and air quality ratings.
Lastly, Professor Vardoulakis recommends Australians help each other and check on the more vulnerable people in their community.
He says most children won’t suffer any long-term health impacts from smoke exposure but the elderly could see existing health problems worsen.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced $5 million in grants to fund research into the long term physical and mental health impacts of smoke exposure.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone suggested more funding to help finish the research before any other future emergencies.
10 Ways To Protect Yourself And Others From Bushfire Smoke
1. Stay indoors.
2. Have a medication plan.
3. Reduce physical activity outdoors.
4. Use face masks.
5. Trust your senses.
6. Keep well.
7. Take care of your mental health.
8. Follow bushfire news and advice.
9. Follow air quality information.
10. Help others.