2019’s bushfires are catastrophic. They have started early and raged beyond NSW and Queensland - with further off regions being affected too. Sydney is experiencing the hottest temperatures on record with disastrous bushfire smoke impacting people's health.
The flames aren’t the only hazard Australia is currently facing - the air quality has drastically deteriorated posing a significant health risk if you have asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart problems, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Young children and seniors are automatically at risk - with the NSW ambulance inundated with call-outs relating respiratory problems and severe asthma symptoms. If you have a chronic respiratory condition, you can’t afford to wait - you need to have a plan of action to keep yourself safe.
How can the bushfire smoke affect your health?
While healthy people might experience a burning throat, coughing, stinging eyes, sneezing and a runny nose as a result of the bushfire smoke in the air, their symptoms will disappear when the smoke contamination dissipates. It’s not the same with Asthma symptoms.
For those with a chronic respiratory condition, it’s not that simple. The duration of asthma symptoms or any chronic respiratory condition may persist for far longer, and, the intensity of the symptoms can be dangerous. The smoke particles which spread through the air can remain a trigger for breathing problems and asthma symptoms for days following exposure. Your symptoms may look like this;
> Difficulty breathing
> Coughing, wheezing
> Sore throat
> Chest tightness
Which health precautions can help you minimise the negative effects of the bushfire smoke?
Always try to minimise your bushfire smoke exposure by staying indoors and keeping the windows closed. Remember, bushfire particles can stay in the air for long after the fire has been extinguished, and ash is especially hazardous.
The best way to prevent smoke coming into your lungs is by using a P2 face mask. Our Bacteria & Asthma Protective Face Mask by Dr. Hoffmann is a reusable and washable face mask with a copper filter that works perfectly against potentially harmful particles. The patented copper filter is particularly beneficial for asthma and allergy sufferers.
Tune into the updates via the mobile apps, radio or TV but avoid going outdoors for some time following the fires. Implement these ideas to keep yourself safe:
> Avoid using anything that adds more particles to the air: gas lights/stove, candles, incense
> Avoid vacuuming because it releases particles into the air, further contaminating it
> Run your air conditioner on recirculation mode, which enables you to block out the outdoor air
> If your symptoms become more severe or if you find you are unable to implement the above, arrange to travel away from home until the fires are under control
Make sure you are prepared for bushfire smoke
NSW Health has released a statement to remind the public that an asthma attack in these conditions can be life-threatening. Those who battle with asthma need to be prepared by having a minimum of 5 days’ worth of medication on hand to manage asthma treatment home. You should also have an emergency kit on hand which is kitted with all of your asthma treatments including prescriptions as well as prevention inhalers, long-acting inhalers, and oral steroids to manage asthma symptoms.
Medications and asthma treatment at home
There are 3 main types of medications used to treat asthma:
A 'reliever' is a medicine that gives you quick relief from asthma symptoms. It helps open the airways of the lungs making breathing easier. You only take it when you need it. It is commonly known as the blue puffer. Use a spacer for more efficient relief!
A 'preventer' reduces the swelling and the mucus in the airways. It makes the airways less sensitive. The medicine takes tome to be effective and has to be taken on a daily basis to work properly. It is used in mild to moderate asthma. It is known as the 'orange' or 'yellow' puffer. Make sure you take your preventer regularly!
If you have severe asthma attacks that do not respond to regular reliever medication, then use steroid medication. If you are using a regular preventer (such as an inhaled corticosteroid), but you still get asthma symptoms, you may need to step up the preventer. These stronger preventers include a second medicine, as well as the inhaled corticosteroid and, are called ‘combination’ therapies. The medications reduce the swelling and mucus in the airways. It takes about 4 hours for this to start working. Steroid medication is usually taken for 3 days.
An asthma flare-up or asthma attack can take anything from a few minutes to a few days to develop. It can be a very frightening experience and people having an asthma attack need help straight away.
Make sure you have a current Asthma Action Plan. If you don’t have a written Asthma Action Plan, visit your doctor to have one completed.
Inhalers and spacers are in high demand. Some of the top-quality products worth keeping in your home include the AbleSpacer with Flo-Tone whistle and Able Spacer and Mask with Whistle for Children. These are special spacers that incorporate anti-bacterial silver ion technology to protects against most bacteria.
Nebulisers are used for the delivery of preventers and relievers and there are a number of high-quality solutions available on the market. In these circumstances, you should order a heavy-duty nebuliser with a high-flow solution for medication and avoid going to the store to purchase, opt for online ordering. Nebulisers come with a nebuliser chamber, facemask, mouthpiece, tubing and inlet filter. The top choices recommended by medical practitioners are the Professional Nebuliser from Medel, the Actineb AC2000 Nebuliser from Medix or the Econoneb Nebuliser from Medix.
The ‘My Asthma Bag from Bello Alito’ is a uniquely Australian innovation designed to simplify record-keeping for asthma sufferers and assist with asthma treatment schedules. It is comprised of tools and record-systems to help caregivers, patients, and doctors to communicate more effectively and manage the condition.
What can you do if someone gets an asthma flare-up?
The four-steps of asthma first aid are:
Sit the person upright and reassure her/him – do not leave them alone.
Without delay, treat with 4 doses of reliever medication (such as Airomir, Asmol, Bricanyl or Ventolin). Use a spacer, if available, with the puffer. Shake the puffer and insert it upright into the spacer. Press on puffer to release one puff at the time into the spacer. Ask the person to take four breaths in and out of the spacer after each puff of medication. Take the spacer out of the mouth.
Wait 4 minutes. If the person still can not breathe normally, repeat and give 4 more puffs. Do not forget to shake the puffer before each puff! If there is little or no improvement, call triple 0 immediately and continue to use the reliever inhaler – 4 doses every 4 minutes until help arrives.
If the person is improving after 4 minutes, keep monitoring. If necessary, repeat doses of the blue inhaler. Return to quiet activity, when the person is free of wheeze, cough or breathlessness.
For those over 12, you can give 2 separate doses of Bricanyl or Symbicort inhaler if a puffer is not available. Wait for 4 minutes. If the asthma patient still can’t breathe normally, give 1 more dose. If it is still the case that the person can’t breathe normally, call an ambulance immediately, dialling 000. Repeat 1 dose every 4 minutes for Bricanyl. Symbicort can be given 3 more times!
If you need emergency assistance, call triple '0'.
Bettercaremarket can help
With so much strain on the industry due to fires, there is a stock shortage of lung devices - which could be catastrophic for many people, especially those with severe asthma symptoms. We recommend checking all the relevant information about Asthma on the website of Asthma Australia.
Avoiding asthma triggers are the best way to prevent flare-ups. Limit your exposure to asthma triggers; in this case try to stay inside and avoid smoke polluted area’s.
Make sure to stock-up on assistive respiratory devices at home. Bettercaremarket has listed facemasks, nebulisers, inhalers, and flow-meters to secure availability for customers in need through this national crisis and beyond. Just place an order and the products will be sent to your home in just a few days.