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Perspectives

Bushfires and planned burns: tips for your patients in managing smoke

FAY JOHNSTON

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Abstract

The frequency and intensity of bushfires are likely to increase with climate change. The health effects of smoke are mainly due to elevated concentrations of particulate matter generated by fire. Bushfire smoke exposure exacerbates many chronic diseases, especially asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Key Points

  • Smoky episodes from bushfires and planned burns are common and increasing in frequency.
  • Patients with chronic respiratory conditions are one of the most important groups at increased risk of adverse impacts from smoke exposure.
  • Public smoke advisories often come too late to benefit higher-risk individuals; therefore, advice from GPs is crucial to support patients in managing their health.
  • The three main tips for patients who are sensitive to smoke are:
      –  find local, near real-time, air quality information, including smoke forecasts if available
      –  have a plan for reducing personal exposure to smoke.
      –  have a plan for preventing and managing clinical deterioration.

    Picture credit: © CreativaImages/iStockphoto.com

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