Haze hazard is still a risk

By Southern Riverina News

District residents have so far escaped being seriously impacted by smoke cover coming from the Victorian and NSW bushfires.

Berrigan Health Service says there have been no recorded incidents of respiratory stress, but Murrumbidgee Local Health District and other authorities warn the danger is not yet over.

Smoke haze caused visibility issues across the Southern Riverina last week, with air quality measurements taken at Berrigan reaching an ‘‘unhealthy’’ index of 163 last Wednesday and deemed one of the worst in NSW on that day.

At the time of going to print yesterday the air quality had returned to a ‘moderate’ reading of 59, but in nearby Albury-Wodonga which is still surrounded by active fires the air quality index was as high as 212 and rated ‘very unhealthy’.

With toxic smoke in the Southern Riverina just a wind change away, Berrigan Health Service manager Margreet Gutker urges all residents to take the necessary precautions.

‘‘We have plenty of masks for those struggling to breathe,’’ she said.

‘‘I encourage anyone who needs one to come in to the hospital, and if you’re having any problems to come in right away.

‘‘Although we haven’t had anyone come in yet with smoke inhalation symptoms, we’re not out of the woods yet with the chance for more smoke coming our way.’’

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.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District director of public health Tracey Oakman said the fire emergency engulfing many parts of the state means the smoke may not lift for some time.

‘‘If possible, stay in airconditioned premises where filtration systems can help to reduce dust particles in the air, and avoid outdoor physical activity,’’ Mrs Oakman said.

‘‘If you are on home oxygen treatment, continue as prescribed and if breathlessness worsens, contact your GP.’’

People with asthma have also been encouraged to carry their reliever medication with them at all times.

‘‘If you develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing, follow your Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Action Plan,’’ she continued.

If the symptoms do not settle, see your GP. In case of emergency, go to your nearest Hospital Emergency Department, or call 000.

Free smoke protective face masks are available from your local hospital.

The P2 masks can reduce the amount of smoke inhaled but will only do so if used properly and a good fit is achieved. Please ask when collecting if you are unsure how to fit it correctly.

P2 masks can make it more difficult for people with a pre-existing heart and/or lung condition to breathe. Please talk to your doctor to see if a P2 mask is suitable for you.