THE NORTH Coast Public Health Unit is advising people in the Bellingen and Nambucca Heads areas to protect their health as smoke from a bushfire north of Ebor, combined with local fires, affects air quality across the region.
Fine smoke particles are known to affect the human respiratory system and can aggravate existing chronic health conditions by penetrating deep into the lungs and entering the blood system.
Director of the North Coast Public Health Unit, Paul Corben, said the fine particles can cause various health problems such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.
"We urge people with chronic respiratory or cardiac conditions to be aware of the health effects of being exposed to bushfire smoke and to take steps to protect their health," Mr Corben said.
"Not everyone who is exposed to bushfire smoke will have health problems and most healthy adults will find symptoms clear without any long-term consequences.
"However, smoke exposure can lead people with lung disease or chronic bronchitis to develop shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, many days after smoke is inhaled. We recommend these people closely monitor their symptoms and follow their asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) action plan."
People sensitive to smoke should stay in air-conditioned premises where air filtration systems can help to reduce smoke particles in the air and avoid strenuous outdoor activity.
"Symptoms can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with chronic respiratory conditions need to be vigilant with their own medication or treatment programs," Mr Corben said. "If symptoms do not settle, contact your doctor."
In the event of an emergency, always remember to dial Triple Zero (000).