Bushfires and asthma
Bushfires can be a big risk for people with asthma. Smoke and ash can trigger asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, breathlessness, coughing or chest tightness, or even an asthma attack.
People with asthma living in high-risk bushfire zones should be on high alert for asthma symptoms during bushfire season. Smoke and increased air pollution from fires can trigger symptoms, as can stress and anxiety.
If you have asthma, or if you are responsible for a child or older person with asthma, be aware of the risk, even after the bushfire threat is gone.
What you can do
Anyone with asthma living in a high-risk bushfire zone should include asthma management in their fire safety survival plan:
- Keep your reliever handy at all times
- Make sure you have plenty of asthma medication available
- If you decide to evacuate make sure your reliever and medications go with you
- Always follow your asthma action plan
Smoke and air quality
People in areas not directly impacted by bushfires are also at risk as winds can carry smoke and ash long distances.
Try and reduce your exposure to smoke by staying indoors with doors and windows closed or if you’re in the car, using re-circulated air.
When smoke affects air quality over a longer period, consider visiting your doctor for an asthma check-up, especially if your symptoms are happening more often or getting worse.
Your doctor can review your asthma management, update your asthma action plan so you know what to do if your asthma flares up, and check you are using your devices correctly to make sure your medication is getting where it is needed.
The National Asthma Council Australia’s how-to video library has technique tips to help you use common inhalers and nasal sprays.
Avoiding the smoke might mean spending more time than usual indoors. Over longer periods, consider your indoor environment and steps you can take to minimise potential triggers.
First aid for asthma
If asthma symptoms occur:
- Follow your asthma action plan
- If you don’t have an action plan, take 4 separate puffs of a blue/grey reliever
- If the symptoms aren’t going away or are getting worse, then follow the steps in First Aid for Asthma