bushfire and smoke

Smoky outside? Protect your health

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Smoke from bushfires, planned burns and other sources can impact air quality. Small particles in smoke usually cause the most concern.

Factsheets are available providing tips on how to minimise your exposure and protect your health:

What is PM2.5?  Smoky outside? Protect your health  Smoky outside? Stay inside

How smoke affects your health

Smoke is a mixture of different–sized particles, water vapour and gases (like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide). The biggest health threat from smoke comes from fine particles. This is because these particles can be breathed deep into your lungs, causing breathing problems and worsening pre–existing medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. The effects of smoke exposure on your health are worse when you do physical activity because you breathe more rapidly and deeply.

Some people are more sensitive to the effects of smoke exposure:

  • People over the age of 65 years, smokers and people with pre–existing heart or lung conditions (including asthma) may experience adverse health effects earlier and at lower smoke concentrations than healthy people, and their symptoms may be worse.
  • Children 14 years and under are also more sensitive to smoke because they are more likely to be active outdoors, their respiratory systems are still developing, and they breathe more air per body weight than adults.

Anyone having trouble breathing or chest pain should seek urgent medical assistance – phone 000.

How to protect your health

Smoke can affect your health. To minimise the potential health impacts, everyone should avoid breathing in smoke.

  • How smoke affects you depends on your age, pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, and the length of time you are exposed to the smoke.
  • Signs of short term smoke irritation such as itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose and coughing usually clear up in healthy adults once you’re away from the smoke.
  • People with pre-existing conditions, including asthmatics, should take their medication, follow their treatment plan and seek immediate medical advice if symptoms such as breathing issues, wheezing or tightness in the chest persist.
  • Limit prolonged or heavy physical activity.
  • Stay inside if possible with the windows and doors closed.
  • Switch air-conditioners to recirculate or reuse air. If they do not have that function, turn them off.
  • Try to take an air-conditioned break elsewhere if it is safe to do so and your home is uncomfortable.
  • Look out for elderly neighbours or other people at risk.

Page last updated on 5 Dec 2017