Last updated on 10/12/2019

Asthma Australia is advising Sydney residents to find a clean air shelter and stay put as the city struggles to cope through disastrous air quality levels due to dense bushfire smoke.  

The Air Quality Index exceeded by 11 times ‘hazardous’ today, reaching over 2,000, with a score of 200 being deemed hazardous– skyrocketing air quality warnings into emergency levels and reducing visibility to a thick fog.  

CEO Michele Goldman says it is not safe to be outside, “even though smoke is penetrating inside homes and buildings, being inside is the safest option.” 

If you have an infant or young child, you’re pregnant, over 65 or you have asthma, respiratory and cardiac conditions, you are at-risk and should avoid going outdoors where ever possible.  

“Be on top alert for any symptoms of breathing difficulty, breathlessness, chest tightening, wheezing or not talking in full sentences,” Ms Goldman said.   

She advised to check young children regularly. 

“If you’re concerned your child has symptoms or you’re unsure of the degree that they’re deteriorating, you can ask them to sing a song or talk to you – if they can’t talk in full sentences and seem breathless or unusually fatigued, this is a key sign they may be in respiratory distress. Or you see their lips turning blue or skin at the nape of their neck tightening, seek immediate medical attention.  

“Ensure you have a reliever puffer and spacer on hand and know how to administer asthma first aid.”  

People are advised to find reprieve in a building or seek accommodation with recycled air conditioning. Alternatively, using an indoor air purifier that filters 95 per cent of particles and has a Hepa filter, set to cost between $100-$200, can help. 

“These extreme conditions will pass but I urge people to make decisions that will be the best for their health or that of their child,” Ms Goldman said.   

“Accumulative exposure does impact on longer term health, so any reprieve from the smoke is worthwhile. And this may be spending a few hours at a shopping centre or cinema.  Or leaving town may be the best option for some people,” she said. 

Asthma Australia has some strategies to build a clean air shelter inside: 

  • Close all windows and doors 
  • Block the opening under doors, and any gaps around windows using a rolled towel or doorstopper 
  • If you have air conditioning that recycles air, choose a room that is away from main entry doors and keep it closed  
  • If you have the means to purchase an air purifier, consider the size of the room and quality of the filter (95% particles, Hepa filter) 
  • You can purchase P2 grade facemasks to help filter particles *ensure they are fitted tightly 

Asthma Australia strongly advises against all outdoor events, sport, activities and exercise. 

“In these conditions, all outdoor activities should be cancelled,” Ms Goldman said. 

If you are experiencing breathing difficulties and symptoms persist, seek immediate medical support. 

For more information on how to manage smoke exposure, visit the asthma Australia website on or call 1800 ASTHMA.