Bushfire smoke

Bushfire aftermath bushfire smoke

Bushfire smoke contains toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and particles, all of which can be hazardous to your health. The smoke can affect your lungs, ability to breath and cause a sore throat, runny nose and coughing.

Many farmers already have sensitive lungs or lung disease because they are regularly exposed to a lot of dust and other particles that affect their lungs. You can be affected by smoke from bushfires even if there is little likelihood the fires will come close to your farm or the days following the fires.

If you have a lung condition like asthma, or a heart condition, you are more likely to be affected by smoke from bushfires. Stay indoors if possible when there is bushfire smoke around your farm, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition. 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, make sure you take your prescribed medication you are on, and wear a ‘P2’ protective mask which is properly fitted. P1 or paper dust masks, handkerchiefs or bandannas do not filter out fine particles from smoke and will not protect your lungs from smoke.

Even though a P2 masks will filter protect you from smoke, they can make it more difficult to breathe.  If you do have a 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.

If you have any breathing problems, seek medical help.

Bushfire smoke and your health.
Bushfire smoke can affect air quality. It contains fine particles and gases that can be breathed deep into the lungs, may affect health and may be toxic (depending on what is burning). It is important to minimise your exposure. Children, the elderly, smokers and people with existing heart or lung conditions (including asthma) are more sensitive.
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)

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: 22nd November, 2016