25 September 2023

ACT Health dusts off dust storm advice

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ACT Health has issued a reminder to people with asthma and other pre-existing respiratory conditions to look after their health during dust storms.

Circulating its advice in response to weather forecasts predicting two days of unsettled conditions which include a dust storm, ACT Health said the event could exacerbate some people’s conditions.

Acting ACT Chief Health Officer, Dr Vanessa Johnston said dust storms could significantly reduce air quality and people with respiratory conditions should take precautions.

“Anyone can experience health effects from dust storms, but particularly those who have pre-existing conditions like asthma,” Dr Johnston said.

“With the advice we have received from the Bureau of Meteorology …. we want people to be aware of the simple ways they can look after their health.”

She said the most common symptoms experienced during a dust storm were irritation to the eyes and upper airways.

“The longer you are exposed, the greater the chance that it will have an effect,” Dr Johnston said.

“That’s why, people who are vulnerable should be vigilant for exacerbations in their condition and avoid exposure to higher levels of dust where possible.”

She said that among the precautions sufferers could take to help minimise the health effects of dust storms were to stay indoors, with windows and doors closed; Stay in air-conditioned premises if possible and switch the air-conditioner to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate’ to reduce the amount of dust entering the building; Avoid vigorous exercise, especially if you have a heart or lung condition; If it is safe to do so, check on elderly neighbours or other people who you think might need extra help.

“Anyone with a heart or lung condition should take their medication as prescribed by their doctor,” Dr Johnston said.

“Anyone with concerns about their health should seek medical advice from their health practitioner, and anyone experiencing wheezing, chest tightness or difficulty breathing should seek urgent medical assistance.”

She said the oncoming weather conditions also served as a good reminder for Canberrans who suffer from asthma to make sure their treatment and action plans were up-to-date.

More information on managing health during dust storms can be accessed at this PS News link.

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