POOR AIR QUALITY: The North Coast Public Health Unit is reminding people to continue to be vigilant about their health, and to take precautions while bushfire smoke affects air quality in Northern NSW.
POOR AIR QUALITY: The North Coast Public Health Unit is reminding people to continue to be vigilant about their health, and to take precautions while bushfire smoke affects air quality in Northern NSW. Jackie Munro

HEALTH ALERT: Smoke to continue affecting air quality

AS bush fires persist across the Northern Rivers well into this week, the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting the smoke will be hanging around for quite a while.

BoM is predicting four out of five days this week will be heavily impacted by smoke, and said residents should take care as air quality and visibility decrease.

Amid these smoky conditions, the North Coast Public Health Unit is reminding people to continue to be vigilant about their health.

North Coast Public Health Unit acting director Greg Bell said residents should take precautions while bushfire smoke affects air quality.

He said fine particles in smoke can affect the human cardiovascular and respiratory systems and aggravate existing health conditions by penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the blood system.

"For most people, smoke causes mild symptoms like sore eyes, nose and throat. However, people with conditions like asthma, emphysema and angina are more likely to be sensitive to the health effects of smoke," Mr Bell said.

"People with these conditions should avoid outdoor physical activity when there's smoke around."

Mr Bell said while Grafton Base Hospital has recorded higher than expected presentations at local hospitals for asthma and breathing problems over the last week, other hospitals across the region are staying steady for the same period.

Mr Bell said smoke exposure can lead people with lung disease or chronic bronchitis to develop shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, many days after smoke is inhaled.

He said people should closely monitor their symptoms and follow their asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) action plan.

Mr Bell advised residents to stay indoors until the air clears and avoid strenuous exercise or heavy outdoor work where possible.

"Symptoms can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with chronic respiratory and cardiac conditions need to be vigilant with their medication or treatment programs," Mr Bell said.

"If symptoms do not settle, contact your doctor."

Residents who may have lost medication due to bush fires, or who don't have their Medicare, DVA or Centrelink card, should speak to their pharmacist.

"In many circumstances, they may be able to provide additional supply," Mr Bell said.

"In accordance with emergency supply provisions, you can receive a 3-day supply of many medications without a prescription."

In the event of an emergency, always remember to dial Triple Zero (000).


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