Look after your health in the bushfire emergency

 The emergence of new growth has sparked much needed joy and showcased Australia’s resilience during the bushfire crisis. Photo: abc.net.au

NSW Health is assisting residents and their families affected by the bushfire emergency to look after their physical and mental health as fires continue in some areas while in others the extensive recovery process has begun. 

A range of services are available to support people affected by the bushfires, including those who are away without access to medications, who are now returning home or who are still in evacuation centres.

Executive Director, Health Protection, Dr Jeremy McAnulty outlined how people who have run out of prescription medicines can still access their medications.

“If you’re away from home and you don’t have your medicines you can call your usual GP and ask them to send your prescription to a pharmacist near you, Dr McAnulty said.

“If you can’t contact your GP, you can go to a local pharmacy to get an emergency three day supply for most medicines.”

Parents who have been unable to vaccinate their child or access their immunisation records can still enrol their child in child care and provide evidence of their immunisation status, from the Australian Immunisation Register or their local doctor within 12 weeks.

Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Murray Wright explained how important it is to look after yourself, family, neighbours and friends and access mental health services if needed. 

“Those particularly at risk are the isolated, the elderly, those with pre-existing mental illness and anyone experiencing a recent bereavement. Talk to your GP or regular health care provider if you are experiencing these issues,” Dr Wright said.

“We have mental health staff on the ground in bushfire-affected areas to provide advice and pathways to care for those who need specialist assistance.”

For additional mental health support people can call the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444, the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 or Lifeline on 131114.

Residents returning home after bushfires should first check with local emergency services to see if it is safe.

Burnt houses, sheds or other structures can leave behind health hazards including fallen or sharp objects, smouldering coals, damaged electrical wires, leaking gas or weakened walls.

When returning home people are reminded to:

  • wear protective clothing, including sturdy footwear, heavy-duty work gloves, disposable coveralls and P2/N95 face masks;
  • throw out all fire-damaged or heat-affected food; 
  • do not drink or give animals water that tastes, looks or smells unusual; and 
  • do not spread or disturb ash around your property, particularly if treated timber was burnt in the fire.

NSW Health is also distributing 1 million Commonwealth-provided P2 masks to hospitals, health facilities, recovery and evacuation centres and pharmacies in affected areas.

When used correctly, P2 masks can filter out fine particles, however they require an extremely good fit to work properly and are not suitable for everyone. To best avoid smoke, stay indoors with windows and doors closed and avoid outdoor exercise. For more health information for the NSW bushfires click here