NSW dust storms: your guide to avoiding health problems

Photo: Business Insider Australia

Bureau of Meteorology forecasters are monitoring a dust storm that may reach Sydney on Thursday.

The storm has already affected remote parts of NSW, as gale force winds blow dust across drought-stricken areas. 

It is being compared to the 2009 dust storm which left Sydney covered in a red haze.  It is unknown if it will be as severe.

An air quality forecast alert of ‘poor’ has already been issued for the Sydney region as particle pollution levels are forecast to exceed national air quality standards.

NSW Health’s environmental health director Dr Richard Broome has encouraged Sydneysiders to limit their time outside if they have a chronic respiratory condition, such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema, or heart disease. 

“If possible, stay in air-conditioned premises where filtration systems can help to reduce dust particles in the air,” Dr Broome said.
“Dust may aggravate existing heart and lung conditions and cause symptoms like eye irritation and cough.

“Symptoms can occur for several days after dust is inhaled, so people with the chronic conditions need to be vigilant with their treatment programs.

“People with asthma or a lung condition who develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, should follow their Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Action Plan.

“If symptoms do not settle, seek medical advice. If you are on home oxygen treatment, continue as prescribed and if breathlessness worsens, contact your doctor.

“Healthy adults may also feel the effects of fine particles that can irritate the lungs, so it’s wise to reschedule or cut back on prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities when dust levels are high.”

These particles can cause a variety of health problems, such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.

In case of emergency, always dial Triple Zero. 

For more information, visit the NSW Health air quality web page: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/…/fact…/Pages/dust-storms.aspx