What precautions can I take?
You may choose to take precautions when it is smoky outside. This is especially important for:
- people with a heart problem
- people with a chronic lung condition, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema
- people aged over 65 years
- other people with long-term medical conditions.
The above groups are also advised to plan ahead before smoky seasons.
Avoid doing physical activity in the outdoors. Exercise causes more of the smaller particles in smoke to be breathed deeply into the lungs.
People with pre-existing heart or lung conditions in particular, should rest as much as possible and stay away from the smoke.
It is important for all Tasmanians to minimise their exposure to smoke whenever possible.
Close windows and doors when indoors to slow the rate of penetration of smoke.
If you have an older air conditioner, switch it to 'recycle' or 'recirculate' to reduce smoke coming inside your home.
When indoors, minimise other sources of air pollution such as cigarette smoke, burning candles, using unflued gas appliances or woodstoves, and avoid stirring up fine dust from sweeping or vacuuming.
If your home gets too hot to be comfortable or is letting in smoky air from the outside, try to relieve your exposure by taking a break in a cleaner air environment, such as a friend's place, the local library, shopping centre, or sports centre. Check the EPA's real time air quality data.
If there is a break in smoky conditions, take the opportunity to open windows and air out your home to improve the indoor air quality.
Portable air cleaners, available from home electrical stores, will lower the concentration of indoor particles and reduce the risk of health impacts from smoke. Only air cleaners that use either a HEPA filter, or an electrostatic precipitator, will provide protection from particles. Devices that only humidify, generate negative ions, or absorb unpleasant smells do not reduce airborne particles.
Know when to seek medical attention
- Those on medication should continue to take their medications as usual.
- Asthmatics should follow their asthma management plan as developed by their family doctor in conjunction with themselves. Make sure you have you blue/grey reliever with you at all times.
- If you are having difficulty breathing or think you are experiencing warning signs of a heart attack, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance immediately.
What about using a face mask?
Simple paper and cloth masks do not protect you from fine particles or other toxins in smoke. Specialised disposable masks, often called "P2" respirators, available from most hardware stores, can reduce exposure to smoke particles if fitted correctly. However, they do not offer protection against the other toxic components of vegetation fire smoke.
Use of a P2 mask might benefit individual people in some situations. They are not routinely recommended because many people, including children and men with beards, cannot achieve a good fit. They are often uncomfortable to wear and the filter system makes breathing more difficult.
Generally, it is better to stay indoors to reduce your exposure to the smoke.