Bushfire smoke

Bushfire aftermath bushfire smoke

Smoke from bushfires, planned burns and other sources can impact air quality. Bushfire smoke contains toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and particles, all of which can be hazardous to your health. Small particles in smoke usually cause the most concern and  effects the  lungs ability to breath and causes a sore throat, runny nose and coughing. For healthy adults these effects usually disappear quickly once they move away from the smoky conditions. People with heart or respiratory conditions (including asthma) are more sensitive to the effects of breathing in smoke, as fine particles can aggravate these conditions, causing symptoms at lower smoke levels.

The farm environment exposes farmers to many respiratory hazards and increases their risk of respiratory conditions. For those farmers who already have compromised respiratory function, exposure to smoke from fires can exacerbate symptoms.

If you have a lung condition like asthma, or a heart condition, you are more likely to be affected by smoke from bushfires. To prevent exacerbation of symptoms – Stay indoors if possible when there is bushfire smoke around your farm,. Be aware of any planned burns in your area as the smoke has the same negative effects as smoke from a bushfire.

If you can’t stay indoors and you need to be actively involved make sure you take your prescribed medication and ensure you have enough medications for several days in case you can’t re stock you supply easily. Wear a ‘P2’ dust mask which has been properly fitted. Note a P1 dust mask handkerchiefs or bandannas do not filter out fine particles from smoke and will not protect your lungs from smoke.

Even though a P2 dust mask will protect you from smoke, it can make it more difficult to breathe.  If you do have a lung/ medical condition, you should seek medical advice about wearing a mask long before you actually need them.

The small particles in smoke will also irritant and cause sore, itchy eyes. Wearing a non ventilated goggle will protect and assist with visibility.

Remove yourself from smoke and seek medical help or Call triple 000 if you start to experience the following:

  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing
  • chest tightness
  • chest pain
  • palpitations
  • fatigue
Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel

References used for this topic page

More information:
Asthma Foundation


EPA Victoria

Effects of smoke

Department of Health (Vic)

Bushfire and public health

Department of Health and Human Services

Bushfire smoke and your health

NSW Health
Research & reviews:
Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council
Medical Journal of Australia

Fast facts:

Bushfire smoke

  • Bushfire smoke can affect your health, especially if you have lung or heart conditions.
  • When bushfires are around, keep outdoor activities to a minimum where possible.
  • Remember even after the fire has gone smoke irritation and particles and gases can affect you over the following days.
  • Seek medical advice if you have chest pain or breathing problems.

Last updated: 25th January, 2018