Six tips to keep safe from bushfire smoke

For the second time this week, Canberra is the world’s worst city for air pollution as it is blanketed by smoke and hazardous haze from the ongoing bushfire crisis.

Here are six ways you can deal with and protect yourself from bushfire smoke as recommended by ANU professor Sotiris Vardoulakis – an internationally recognised expert on air quality and health.

Stay indoors

Create a clean air space in your home, close doors and windows (fill gaps with towels/tape), use air conditioning (not evaporative coolers) on recirculate mode, use air purifier with HEPA filter.

Trust your senses

When you smell or see smoke, air pollution is HAZARDOUS. If you have itchy eyes, cough, running nose reduce activities, stay indoors, take lozenges/eye drops. If you feel difficulty breathing, wheezing, tight chest seek urgent medical attention/call 000.

Face masks

Use P2/N95 professional face masks if you have to be outdoors. Fit them tightly around mouth & nose. Replace mask when it becomes dirty/moist. Remove mask if you feel faint/unwell. Surgical masks offer little protection. There are no professional masks for kids.

Avoid strenuous physical activity outdoors

Don’t go for your usual jog. Go to the gym or an indoor swimming pool. Visit air-conditioned libraries, cinema, shopping centres. Time your activities in a way that reduces your exposure to smoke. Go for a walk when air quality is better.

Keep your medication and medical plan

Those with heart/lung conditions are more sensitive to smoke. Keep sufficient supplies of your regular medication. Follow your asthma/medical plan (keep your inhaler with you). Talk to your doctor if you feel unwell, before making changes to your medical plan.

Keep well and follow advice

Stay away from the heat and smoke, keep well hydrated, eat plenty of fruits and veggies (don’t eat junk). Most importantly quit smoking. Antioxidant supplements (vitamin C & E) may help. Follow local news/advice, including ACT Health, ACT Emergency Services Agency and ACT Rural Fire Service.

This article was first published on Australia’s Science Channel, the original news platform of The Royal Institution of Australia.

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