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Health alert – Smoke from the fires

Canterbury DHB Friday 17 February 2017, 12:17PM

Media release from Canterbury District Health Board

Health alert – Smoke from the fires – phone your GP team first for #carearoundtheclock & look out for your neighbours

With the fires continuing across Canterbury today, Canterbury DHB is reminding people to phone their GP team first for #carearoundtheclock if they experience any respiratory issues or concerns.

Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says for the vast majority of people, the smoke will be unpleasant, but carries no risk to their health.

“Smoke may irritate the eyes, nose, throat and airways. More serious symptoms include runny or sore eyes, dry or sore throat, sore nose, cough, tightness of the chest or difficulty breathing.

“In healthy people, most symptoms disappear soon after exposure to smoke ends and do not cause long-term health problems.”

People who have difficulty breathing, have a prolonged cough or tightness in their chest should make their own GP team their first call 24/7 for #carearoundtheclock.

“In an emergency always phone 111. For all other health care needs make your usual general practice team your first call – after hours, and when they’re closed, a team or nurses is ready to take your call. They can tell you what to do and where to go if you need to be seen urgently.”

Dr Humphrey says most people are very unlikely to have any long-term health effects but people with pre-existing respiratory (lung) illness or heart disease may experience and exacerbation (recurrence) of their condition.

Cigarette smokers, the elderly, children and those with heart disease, asthma or other lung disease are at greatest risk of harm from smoke inhalation.

“Avoid exposure where possible by staying indoors and closing windows and doors,” he says.

“Seek medical help if your symptoms worsen, especially if you have asthma, lung or heart disease, or if you start to experience breathlessness or chest pain.”

Dr Humphrey is also encouraging people remember to look out for their neighbours, especially the elderly, or those with disabilities and make sure they’re ok.

“Canterbury has been hit hard with its fair share of disasters in the last half decade, so many people will understandably be feeling overwhelmed and in shock. We all need to remember to look out for one another and take care of each other.”


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