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The Devastation of Australia's Fires

Photo: Daniel Knox | Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade

I'm sure wherever you are in the world you will have heard of the devastation happening during the Australian Spring and Summer.  Unprecedented drought which has been ongoing in so many parts of the country, along with record breaking high temperatures and high winds has caused devastating bush fires causing loss of life, homes and loss to wildlife and bush land some of which may never recover from the extreme fire heat that has been experienced. This has certainly brought the reality of how precious life, animals and our land are to each and every one of us. The international support has been unprecedented and certainly shows it is not just Australians that feel this way.

Australian bushfire Travel Bake Create Blog

Photo courtesy of New York Times

Our firefighters continue to battle the blazes, putting their lives and homes on the line to save others. They are nothing short of heroes. Many of the firefighters battling the worst conditions across the country in years, are volunteers. The selfless act of giving up not only their time and their everyday jobs is amazing on its own. But leaving their own homes and families that are at risk to go and try and save others in their community is something that shows the true Aussie spirit. Words will never be enough to show the countries gratitude to all of our firefighters, and the amazing firefighters that have arrived from overseas.

Bilpin Bushfire Picture David Gray Travel Bake Create Blog

Picture: David Gray

The tireless, physically and mentally exhausting work they continue to do can not really be comprehended unless you have lived through a bush fire firsthand. Luckily where I am located we have been safe, but previously when I lived in the Blue Mountains, (one of the areas which is again being ravished by the current fires), I did live through a number of bush fires. The things that I will never forget are the eerie glow in the sky, the sound of sirens, the constant stream of helicopters filling up from a dam near us and then flying off again, climbing onto the roof to clear gutters and hose down (and turning around to see my then 2 year old daughter stepping off the ladder and onto the roof, but that's a whole other story for another time) and the unrelenting thick smoke that makes it hard to breathe, filling your home and having everything smelling of smoke for days and weeks after the fires have gone. I consider myself to be very lucky that the fire did not get close enough for me to physically feel the heat coming off it, and we had no property destroyed, but with the thick billowing smoke at the end of our street, I never want it to get any closer than that. At that time, with two small children suffering asthma, I had to leave and stay with family in Sydney due to the smoke. I look back on all of this and feel my experience is nothing compared to what Australians are currently going through. The images the world is seeing has been compared to scenes from a war movie. It is incomprehensible that these scenes are not a movie, but actual real life. 

Areas of the country that did not have actual fires, have had record breaking air quality levels due to the smoke and haze. At one stage, Canberra, our nations capital, was recording air quality levels that put them at number 1 on the highest levels of the worst air quality in the world. For you cricket fans out there, the Australian T20 Big Bash League suspended play at the oval they were playing at in Canberra as air quality reached dangerous levels for the players and fans, and visibility was greatly reduced as smoke drifted across the oval, something unprecedented in Australia history.

Cricket Canberra BBL Smoke Haze Affects Game Travel Bake Create Blog   

Photo courtesy smh.com.au

As I am writing this, I am watching the Australian Tennis. Qualifying rounds for admission into the main draw for the Australian Open are happening in Melbourne. Play started late due to the smoke haze. Players are really struggling due to the very poor air quality there today. They are experiencing coughing fits, breathing difficulties, chest pain, a player was taken off court to be assessed by doctors and a Slovenian female player had to withdraw during the game. There are scenes flashing up on the TV that we never expect to see here in Australia. It is all very concerning and worrying. The air quality in Melbourne as I type is the second worst air quality level in the world!

 Australian Open Smoke Haze 2020 Travel Bake Create Blog

Photo Courtesy msn.com

I am no stranger to poor air quality levels either. Having lived in Singapore for a number of years, we experienced haze blowing in from palm oil plantation fires in Indonesia and Malaysia, sending the normally beautiful Singapore air levels through the roof. The effects were many; sore throat, headache, cough, blocked sinuses, sore itchy eyes, were just a few. We were made very aware of the dangers these increased quantities of small particles in the air can do to our lungs when inhaled, and encouraged to stay inside and wear masks if you had to venture outside. Children were kept inside at play times at school (schools were even closed when certain levels were reached), and outdoor sport was suspended or at the very least discouraged. I may be wrong, but I don't feel here in Australia we have adequately been made aware of the potential health risks breathing the small particles of dirt and dust can have on us all. Of particular risk is the damage to babies, children, people suffering respiratory problems such as asthma, and the elderly.

The massive destruction of vast areas of one of the most beautiful countries on earth, with some of the rarest wildlife and precious varied countryside is bad enough. But you add in loss of life and homes, and no immediate end in sight, along with potential ongoing health risks to both physical and mental health, the recovery period from these fires is a long way off.

While we cannot control the bush fires and the smoke haze at this stage, we can do some things to help our bodies cope. I am by no means an expert in the medical or health field, but I can provide some tips that may help you create a healthier space for you and your family. Remember no one thing is going to suddenly give you clean air, but these are things you can do to help improve the air quality in your home.  Also remember if you are in areas affected by smoke haze and air pollution, please wear masks if you must venture outdoors, restrict your physical activity and keep your fluid levels up.

1. Diffusing Essential Oils 

Diffusing essential oils is a great way to not only help clean the air, but also receive the therapeutic effects of the oil. When you inhale the essential oil it makes its way through your olfactory system directly to the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is where memories, instincts and vital bodily functions are controlled and processed. (if you are interested in this process, please contact me and I can explain it further to you). Below are some suggested oils or blends that can be used to help at this time. * 

I have added a number of diffuser blends below, to allow for the different oils you may have in your collection. In your favourite water-based essential diffuser, add to distilled water and enjoy

Fresh Air 1:

2 drops lemon essential oil

2 drops rosemary essential oil

1 drop melaleuca essential oil (tea tree)

Fresh Air 2:

4 drops rosemary essential oil

4 drops peppermint essential oil (or substitute 4 drops lavender)

Fresh Air 3:

5 drops Purification (Young Living Blend)

3 drops lavender essential oil

Fresh Air 4:

3 drops grapefruit essential oil

2 drops Citrus Fresh essential oil (Young Living Blend, or substitute and citrus combination)

3 drops lime essential oil

Fresh Air 5:

4 drops Purification (Young Living Blend)

4 drops Thieves (Young Living Blend)

Fresh Air 6:

 4 drops RC (Young Living Blend)

4 drops Purification (Young Living Blend)

 

Breathe 1:

2 drops peppermint essential oil

1 drop eucalyptus essential oil

2 drops lavender essential oil

Breathe 2:

2 drops peppermint essential oil

3 drops eucalyptus essential oil

2 drops lemon essential oil

Breathe 3:

2 drops lavender essential oil

2 drops lemon essential oil

2 drops peppermint essential oil

 

Healthy Body 1:

2 drops peppermint essential oil

2 drops lavender essential oil

2 drops lemon essential oil

 

Emotional Support 1:

4 drops clary sage essential oil

2 drops bergamot essential oil

2 drops orange essential oil

 

Emotional Support 2:

2 drops lavender essential oil

2 drops rosemary essential oil

2 drops eucalyptus essential oil

 

2. Indoor Plants

Plants have many properties making their use within the home popular. One of their main properties is their ability to purify the air. Relieving stress is another. Spread plants throughout the house to maximise these properties. Common plants are:

English Ivy

Snake Plant (or Mother-in-Law's Tongue)

Spider Plant

Aloe Vera

Broad Lady Palm

Weeping Fig

Red -Edged Draecena

Give your home a breath of fresh air with one or some of these plants. Your local nursery should be able to advise you on indoor plants to suit your location

 

3. Beeswax Candles

Beeswax candles act as natural air purifiers. If, like me, you love candles in your home, please consider using beeswax candles. Paraffin candles which are petroleum derived release harmful chemicals into the air, which is not only bad for you, but it defeats the process of trying to help purify the air in your home. Beeswax candles ionise the air and neutralise toxic compounds and other contaminants. Beeswax candles not only improve your air quality, but they also burn slowly, so they don't need to be replaced as often. They also have the added benefit of burning almost no smoke or scent. This makes them the perfect air purifiers and perfect for people who suffers allergies or asthma. If you like a scent from your candles, you could make your own beeswax candles and add your favourite essential oil. Keep watching for a future post on how to do this.

 

4. Other
Refreshing Room Spray

3 drops orange essential oil

2 drops peppermint essential oil

1 drop rosemary essential oil

Add essential oils to a 60 ml (2 oz) spray bottle, then fill with distilled water. Shake well before use. Spray to refresh the room

 

There are other things you can do to minimise the effects of the smoke haze:

- stay indoors with the doors and windows closed

- use your air conditioner set to recirculate air to help prevent smoke from entering your home

- reduce outdoor activity

- wear a mask when you are outside

Remember pets feel the effects of the smoke haze and heat also. Dogs and cats don't thermo-regulate the same way we do, so if you feel hot, they will feel even hotter. Keep your pets inside and look for any signs of distress such as panting, coughing, or difficulty breathing; and ring your vet if you are concerned.

 

None of this is going to stop what is happening in Australia. Showing our support is vital to the firefighters and the many people that have lost everything, those that have been displaced, those that are isolated and without electricity, water and food supplies. We need to remember that the effects of the fires and the devastation is not only felt by those directly at the fire front. The images that have been released have also been a sign of distress for many people. Taking care of yourself and minimising the side effects of the last few months is vital for everyone's physical and mental health, no matter where you are or what you have experienced. 

I have had some friends and colleagues from overseas asking how they can help and where they can donate. If you would like to show your support by donating, there are a few charities I can recommend:


Salvation Army

Australian Red Cross

WIRES Wildlife Centre

RSPCA

Koala Hospital

Other ways you can help is by supporting businesses in country areas. There are some amazing gifts for family and friends (or yourself) that help keep money coming in to rural business. @spendwiththem on Instagram or @buyfromthebush on Facebook are great places to support. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing stress following the bushfires and feel you need to talk to someone or need some tips to help you or your family cope, contact Lifeline to find out how you can recover and go on to rebuild your life.

The true impact of what is happening in Australia will not be felt for many months to come. Adults and children alike will need time to process and only then can the healing and rebuilding start. It is going to be a long road ahead. Sometimes as things like this drag on, and the media hype dies, it's only human nature to start forgetting and moving on. We can't become complacent about what's happening no matter how long this goes on. There are thousands of people and even more animals that need our support. We will also need time to sit down and work out what we need to do as a Nation to prevent this from happening again. I like to think, as Aussies, we will continue to help each other and we will always be there for each other, no matter how long it takes. 

 

 

* Please remember, the quality of the oil is vital when you are diffusing for its therapeutic effect. When are using oils, please do your research on the company and the oils to make sure they are pure, not adulterated and safe for use around children, pregnant women, and pets.

** If you would like further information on what specific oils can do to support your body, please contact me

*** Please exercise caution around pets. Always allow your pet access to another room in case they want to remove themselves from the aroma. Remember their sense of smell is far superior to ours 

 

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