During the bushfire season, smoke reduces the quality of the air you breathe. This fact sheet provides some useful information on what you can do to avoid or reduce the impact of bushfire smoke on your health.
Last updated: 09 December 2006
What is bushfire smoke?
Smoke from bushfires is made up of small particles, gases and water vapour. The particles are very small - up to 1/30th the diametre of an average human hair - and are not visible to the human eye.
The gases in bushfire smoke include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.
Bushfire smoke exposure and health effects
Fine smoke particles are known to affect the human breathing system. The smaller or finer the particles, the deeper they go into the lungs.
These particles can cause a variety of health problems, such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis. The smoke particles can also aggravate existing lung conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.
Symptoms can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with the above conditions need to be vigilant with their treatment programs.
If you have asthma or a lung condition and you develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow your Asthma or COPD Action Plan.
If symptoms do not settle, seek medical advice. If you are on home oxygen treatment, continue as prescribed. If breathlessness worsens, contact your doctor.
Healthy adults generally find that any symptoms they have developed during a bushfire event clear after the smoke disappears.
The following precautions can help you minimise adverse effects of bushfire smoke:
If smoke conditions are hazardous, your local Public Health Unit may advise you to postpone outdoor events or seek shelter in air-conditioned premises or a clean-air room, if one is available.
If the bushfire event lasts a long time, say, a few weeks, consider the following precautions to reduce exposure:
|Further information - Public Health Units in NSW|
|For more information please contact your doctor, local public health unit or community health centre - look under NSW Government at the front of the White Pages|
|Metropolitan Areas||Location||Number||Rural Areas||Location||Number|
|Northern Sydney||Hornsby||02 9477 9400||Greater Southern||Goulburn||02 4824 1837|
|Central Coast||Gosford||02 4349 4845||Albury||02 6080 8900|
|South Eastern Sydney||Randwick||02 9382 8333||Greater Western||Broken Hill||08 8080 1499|
|Illawarra Shoalhaven||Wollongong||02 4221 6700||Dubbo||02 6841 5569|
|Sydney South West||Camperdown||02 9515 9420||Bathurst||02 6339 5601|
|Sydney West||Penrith||02 4734 2022||Hunter/New England||Newcastle||02 4924 6477|
|Parramatta||02 9840 3603||Tamworth||02 6764 8000|
|Justice Health Service||Matraville||02 9311 2707||North Coast||Port Macquarie||02 6588 2750|
|Lismore||02 6620 7585|