With fires burning around Victoria, one expert has warned people with respiratory illness to take care
With the mercury topping 40 degrees C in Melbourne today ahead of an expected cool change tonight, firefighters have continued to combat two out-of-control fires in Victoria’s southwest.
A grassfire at Langi Kal Kal has been brought under control and emergency services are warning of several other fires around the state.
“The smoke from bushfires can be very harmful, just as the smoke from any fire can be,” warns Dr Brian Oliver, who leads the Respiratory Molecular Pathogenesis Group at UTS and the Woolcock Institute.
“However, for most people, if you are some distance from the source of the fire, the health risks are minimal—perhaps similar to standing next to a wood fire BBQ, or visiting an area which has a lot of wood fire heaters.
12 Aircraft and 24 vehicles from @FFMVic and @CFA_Updates attended the grassfire today at Langi Kal Kal which is now under control. Crews will remain on scene and continue to work on the fire. Continue to monitor conditions & warnings via Vic Emergency. https://t.co/dId9ytSzNs pic.twitter.com/QUkWJaJLS1
— VicEmergency (@vicemergency) January 19, 2018
“This does not mean that the bush fire smoke is not causing damage, it’s just that your total exposure will be low and if you are otherwise healthy, it is unlikely to cause any health-related problems.
“However, bush fire smoke can cause health problems, and special caution needs to be taken by the very young and old, and also by people with respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart disease.”
Dr Oliver warned Australians that bush fire smoke can lead to these diseases getting worse.
“It is important that people with these diseases continue to take their usual medications and seek medical help if they feel worse at any time,” he says.
“If you are not threatened by the fire, its best to stay indoors with all the windows and doors closed, and if you have an air conditioner set it to recirculate. It is important to monitor the fire to make sure that you are not at risk at any time.”
Melbourne and Adelaide sweltered today with expected tops of above 41 degrees C, and the ACT is facing several consecutive days of 37 to 38 degree heat.
During a recent heatwave former pharmacist of the year and Queenslander Karalyn Huxhagen advised pharmacists of ways to help patients handle the heat:
- Talk about using oral rehydration solutions… at least two servings a day.
- Be aware that cars will be extremely hot. “So opening up their car and not getting straight in is particularly important for our cardiac patients. If you step straight in and drive away, the heat in that car can be overpowering and people have been lost that way.”
- “People need to stay cool, stay in shady places. And don’t leave your kids in the car, don’t leave your dog in the car.”