Particles in smoke to trouble Tasmanians with asthma

Hazard reduction burn season is getting underway in Tasmania, which may see bushfire smoke trigger asthma symptoms for Tasmanians with asthma.

Starting earlier than other states, the Tasmanian Fire Service is taking full advantage of cool conditions with several controlled burns now scheduled.

Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman says that research findings from the University of Tasmania’s Nicolas Borchers-Arriagada shows bushfire smoke, with high amounts of fine particulate matter PM2.5, “results in higher asthma-related effects”.

“One in eight Tasmanians are affected by asthma, the second highest prevalence in the country. It’s vital that Tasmanians with asthma are aware of hazard reduction burns happening in their region,” said Ms Goldman.

“People with asthma are higher risk of harm and illness due to poor air quality, as are babies, pregnant women, over 65’s and anyone with a respiratory or heart condition,” she said.

The health warning comes following months of unprecedented poor, very poor and hazardous air quality which choked mainland Australia during the Black Summer Bushfires resulting in spikes in ambulance call outs for breathing difficulties.

Ms Goldman said bushfire smoke travels large distances, so you need to know about what’s planned, check your local air quality and familarise yourself with weather conditions.

“If smoke is a trigger for you, you need to be using your preventer medication daily and have relievers available. Be mindful that asthma preventers can take time, up to four weeks, to be effective. It’s critical that Tasmanians with asthma talk to their doctor about using a preventer and avoid exposure where possible by staying indoors during smoky days.”

To help assess air quality, Asthma Australia says the free Air Rater App provides live air quality data across Tasmania drawn from the EPA network.

“Tasmanians are really lucky to have access to live air quality data right across their state,,” Ms Goldman said.

She encouraged people with asthma to take full advantage of the free Air Rater App which also helps to track health symptoms and provides personal health alerts based on weather and air quality data.

Asthma Australia is proud to display the EPA air quality data on their website alongside helpful information on how to manage asthma in poor air quality available at www.asthma.org.au. The Tasmanian Department of health also provides health fact sheets on bushfire smoke available at http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/publichealth/air

To track where controlled burns are being undertaken in Tasmania, visit http://www.fire.tas.gov.au/Show?pageId=colWhatsBurningNow

If people have questions about their asthma, they can also call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) to speak with an Asthma Australia Asthma Educator.