Dr Herath patients with lung conditions should be extra cautious during the current bushfires.

“Just because you’re far away from the fires, it doesn’t mean you are out of harm’s way.

“By the time bushfire smoke reaches areas of high population it contains tiny particles which your body views as a foreign body, often triggering inflammation such as sore throat, or itchy eyes. Large particles tend to irritate the eyes and nose, while finer particles can get into the lungs and are more harmful.

“People with underlying chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, sarcoidosis or emphysema need to be especially careful and we have seen a spike in symptoms in this group in the past few weeks,” says Dr Herath, one of Sydney’s leading respiratory physicians.

Signs and symptoms of bushfire exposure include coughing, difficulty breathing, chest tightness, palpitations, fatigue.

Even healthy people may experience these symptoms.

Dr Herath says if your home is shrouded by smoke to:
– Stay indoors and keep windows shut
– Pay attention to media reports and DFES alerts (external site).
– Use an air conditioner, if you have one, switched to ‘recirculate’ (or take an air conditioned break in a public building).
– Do not exercise outdoors
– Avoid adding to the air pollution by not smoking or using candles or wood fires. Do not vacuum or use unflued gas appliances.
– If you suffer from asthma, heart or lung problems, make sure you always have at least 5 days’ worth of medication with you. Make sure your child’s asthma plan is up to date with schools.
– Wearing a mask will not generally help, but having your inhaler on hand will (keep one in car, one in bag, one at work, one at home).

If you experience worsening of your asthma that does not respond to usual measures, or you experience new breathing problems or chest pain, get medical help ASAP.

Go to your local emergency (severe breathlessness)
See your GP or specialist (mild breathlessness)
Visit a GP after hours.
Ring healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.