Residents are reminded to be vigilant about their health as smoke from the Green Wattle Greek fire in the Wollondilly blankets the Southern Highlands.
People are advised to take precautions and stay indoors to avoid irritations to the eyes, nose and throat, and to avoid aggravating existing lung and heart conditions.
Older adults and people with heart and lung conditions are most susceptible to the effects of air pollution and excessive smoke.
South Western Sydney Local Health District Public Health Unit Director, Dr Naru Paul said the fire emergency engulfing many parts of the State meant that the smoke had affected many communities and showed no sign of lifting in the near future.
"These numbers show the smoke continues to have an impact on people's health and reinforces the need for people to take steps to reduce their exposure," Dr Pal said.
For most people, smoke causes mild symptoms like sore eyes, nose and throat. However, people with conditions like asthma, emphysema and angina are at greater risk because the smoke can trigger their symptoms.
"NSW Health continues to recommend that people with these conditions should avoid outdoor physical activity when there's smoke around," Dr Pal said.
Dr Pal said, with more and more people starting to wear a variety of face-masks, it is important to consider the evidence.
"The main concern with smoke is the very fine PM2.5 particles, which are so small they pass through most types of mask. A P2 mask does filter out these particles, but is only effective if there is a good fit and an air-tight seal around the mouth and nose.
"Evidence shows that this is difficult to achieve in practice, so they may not provide the benefit people are hoping for."
The local health district have outlined a range of simple tips to help stay safe and healthy during the smoke/poor air quality:
- People with asthma, heart disease and other lung and heart conditions should avoid vigorous outdoor physical activity when smoke is around.
- Staying indoors with the doors and windows shut is an effective way of reducing exposure to smoke.
- People with asthma or a lung condition should follow their Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Action Plan and carry their relieving medication with them. If your symptoms do not settle, seek medical advice.
- In case of emergency always dial Triple Zero.
If smoky conditions are prolonged for several days or more:
- Keep doors and windows of your home closed while smoke is about and take advantage of any breaks in the smoky conditions to air out your home.
- If possible, spend some time in air-conditioning with the air-conditioner set to recirculate indoor air.
- Consider postponing outdoor events, especially sporting and other physically active events.
- Avoid indoor sources of air pollution like candles, incense, and wood burning heaters.
In case of emergency always remember to dial Triple Zero.
More information is available online at: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/bushfire-smoke.aspx