Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Foundation warns of respiratory risk from fires

Kiwis living with a respiratory condition are being urged to take precautions to protect themselves from flare-ups caused by smoke exposure.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is advising residents near blazes in Onehunga, Auckland and Lee Valley, Tasman to close all windows and doors if staying inside, or wear a N95 or KN95 mask if going outside.

Large flames and billowing smoke could be seen for several kilometres yesterday as fire fighters responded to a huge blaze at the Green Gorilla Waste Facility on Victoria St in Onehunga, while the Tasman blaze spread across several hectares of land late yesterday.

“Breathing in smoke from fires can pose serious risks for respiratory health, especially for vulnerable populations such as our tamariki, elderly, and those with underlying conditions,” said Foundation Chief Executive, Letitia Harding.

“It’s crucial for everyone to be aware of the risks, know how to manage those risks, and take steps to minimise exposure.”

Smoke contains tiny particles that enters the throat and lungs causing irritation, Ms Harding said.

“For those with severe respiratory conditions, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), this irritation can cause flare-ups, which can be serious and lead to hospitalisation.

“It is important that people with asthma or COPD keep their reliever inhaler on-hand if they start to develop symptoms.”

Research shows that a N95 (or KN95) mask offers the best protection against smoke from wild fires.

“If fitted and worn correctly, the N95 mask filters out 95% of particles, significantly reducing the risk of those particles getting into your lungs,” Ms Harding says.

“Cloth masks and surgical masks do not provide that same level of protection.”

It is also recommended that all people with respiratory conditions keep necessary medications on hand when going out with the smoke in circulation, said Ms Harding.

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