With smoke from the Tai Tapu/Port Hills' fires spreading across Canterbury, Canterbury DHB is reminding people to phone their GP team first for care around the clock if they experience any respiratory issues or concerns.
Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says the smoke has noticeably spread over the city and surrounding hill suburbs this morning.
"For the vast majority of people, the smoke will be unpleasant, but carries no risk to their health. However, smoke may irritate the eyes, nose, throat and airways. More serious symptoms include runny or sore eyes, dry or sore throat, sore nose, cough, tightness of the chest or difficulty breathing.
"In healthy people, most symptoms disappear soon after exposure to smoke ends and do not cause long-term health problems."
People who have difficulty breathing, have a prolonged cough or tightness in their chest should make their own GP team their first call 24/7 for care around the clock.
"In an emergency always phone 111. For all other health care needs make your usual general practice team your first call – after hours, and when they're closed, a team or nurses is ready to take your call. They can tell you what to do and where to go if you need to be seen urgently."
Dr Humphrey says most people are very unlikely to have any long-term health effects but people with pre-existing respiratory (lung) illness or heart disease may experience and exacerbation (recurrence) of their condition.
Cigarette smokers, the elderly, children and those with heart disease, asthma or other lung disease are at greatest risk of harm from smoke inhalation.
"Avoid exposure where possible by staying indoors and closing windows and doors," he says.
"Seek medical help if your symptoms worsen, especially if you have asthma, lung or heart disease, or if you start to experience breathlessness or chest pain."
To date there have been no presentations to Christchurch Hospital's Emergency Department relating to the fires.
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