Clinical management of asthma during bushfire season

22 Jan 2020

Persistent bushfire smoke has affected many parts of Australia this summer, bringing an increased risk of asthma flare-ups 

It’s crucial to speak with your asthma patients about managing their symptoms, good asthma care and control, and steps they can take during bushfire season.

Key points:

  • Assess asthma control. Bushfire smoke may be exposing an underlying issue with control. 
  • Reinforce medication adherence. Regular preventer medication is recommended for most adults with asthma. 
  • Ensure the patient has a written asthma action plan that is up-to-date and understood.
  • Ensure all patients with asthma have a reliever inhaler and know when and how to use it.  
  • Advise limiting exposure to smoky conditions: stay indoors, avoid vigorous exercise. 
  • Consider whether a P2 mask is needed. 
  • Check device technique
  • Consider investigating asthma diagnosis in patients presenting with breathing problems.

Check asthma control 

It’s always important to check whether your patients have good asthma control, especially if air quality is creating challenging conditions.

Visit the Australian Asthma Handbook for the national asthma treatment guidelines, including information about adherence and triggers 

Update Written Asthma Action Plans 

Asthma action plans are an integral self-management tool to help people recognise when their symptoms are getting worse and know how to respond.  

Make sure your patients have an up-to-date asthma action plan and know how to follow it.  

Could it be undiagnosed asthma?

There may be people who don't realise they have asthma that are experiencing symptoms triggered by the smoke and poor air quality.

Be alert for symptoms that could signal asthma and refer to the Australian Asthma Handbook for information about diagnosis. 

Steps to reduce smoke exposure

Staying inside, closing doors and windows and setting air conditioning to recirculate can help limit exposure to smoky conditions in the short-term.  

For more information about steps people can take, from advice for prolonged smoke haze to information on masks, read the guidance from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and State and Territory Chief Health Officers. 

Check device technique 

Are your patients using their inhalers properly? Incorrect technique is common and can contribute to poor symptom control.  

Our how-to video library includes demonstrations with the main types of inhalers.  

More resources for health professionals

Useful links for people with asthma