What is the issue?
Bushfire smoke is a mixture of different-sized particles, water vapour and gases, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
The larger particles which are visible to the eye contribute to the visible haze when a fire is burning. They are generally too large to be breathed deeply into the lungs but can irritate the nose and throat. Finer microscopic particles and gases are small enough to be breathed deep into the lungs and can cause health effects.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a high level smoke alert for LaTrobe Valley and other areas of Gippsland for Thursday 13 February. This smoke is resulting from bushfire activity. Residents are likely to experience visibility of less than 10 kilometres due to high particle concentrations in the air.
General Practitioners in the Latrobe Valley are likely to see an increase in presentations and calls from at risk patients concerned about the health impacts of smoke. This Alert provides links to resources on prevention to share with those patients.
Who is at risk?
Children, the elderly, smokers and people with preexisting illnesses such as heart or lung conditions (including asthma) are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in fine particles. Symptoms may worsen and include wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing.
Anyone with a heart or lung condition should follow the treatment plan advised by their doctor and keep at least five days supply of medication on hand. People with asthma should follow their personal asthma plan.
Everyone, but particularly those at high risk, should avoid prolonged or heavy physical activity outdoors and keep informed of fire activity in their immediate area.
Those with symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing should seek medical advice promptly.