Meet Larry the PM2.5 fine particle - he lives in smoke from fires and can affect people's health. Learn more about Larry and to protect your health when the air quality is affected by smoke.

This is Larry. Larry is a PM2.5 fine particle. He and his mates live in smoke from fires.

He’s not the only thing that lives there. Smoke is a mixture of particles, water vapour and gases. But Larry and his mates… well, they’re the biggest troublemakers.

You see, fine particles like Larry can cause some short-term or long-term effects on your respiratory or cardiovascular systems. That could mean big problems for your heart and lungs, especially if you have asthma or other lung conditions.

The effects of smoke exposure can vary. Health effects could be as simple as itchy eyes and a sore throat, but it can also be something more serious. Because fire smoke can not only signal a threat to your safety, but also a risk to your health.

Larry’s microscopic. That means he’s tough to see. To give you an idea of just how tiny he is, here’s 40 Larrys laying side by side along the width of a human hair. 

But how can something so small cause so much trouble? Well, if you’ve had a kid you’ll know.

Because Larry and his friends are so small, they’re prime culprits for getting into all the places they shouldn’t be. They can get right down deep into your respiratory system and hang out in your lungs.

Larry irritates some people more than others. Kids up to 14 and adults over 65, smokers, pregnant women and people with a heart or lung condition can have a much tougher time putting up with Larry. Their symptoms can be worse at lower smoke concentrations.

Kids are also more at risk because their respiratory systems are still developing, they are often running around outside and they breathe in more air per body weight than adults. More air means more Larrys.

So how do you keep Larry out of your lungs?

If you’re not under threat from a fire, stay inside with the windows and doors closed, and reduce physical activity. If you have a heart or lung condition, including asthma, make sure you take your medications and follow your treatment plan.

Keep the air inside your home as healthy as possible. If you have an air conditioner, switch it to ‘recirculate’ or ‘re-use’ and reduce activities that affect indoor air quality, like smoking cigarettes, burning candles or vacuuming.

If your home is uncomfortable, take a break from Larry by visiting a friend or relative away from the smoke or visit an air-conditioned centre, like a library. Check that it’s safe to go elsewhere before leaving.

And when there’s a break in the smoke, open your windows and doors to get rid of any smoke inside the house. See ya later, Larry.

Keep Larry out of your lungs. Stay safe and keep your airways clear.



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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Better Health Channel

Last updated: January 2017

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