Key messages

  • Bushfire smoke can reduce air quality in rural and urban areas, and may affect people's health.
  • Planned burns are an important part of bushfire risk reduction, but the smoke has the same health effects as smoke from unplanned bushfires.
  • During smoky conditions, try to stay indoors, if possible, and try not to exercise vigorously, especially outdoors.
  • If your health seems to worsen during a bushfire or planned burn, see your doctor.

Bushfire smoke can reduce air quality in rural and urban areas, and may affect people's health.

Bushfire smoke is a mixture of different-sized particles, water vapour and gases, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

The larger particles, which are visible to the eye, contribute to the visible haze when a fire is burning. They are generally too large to be breathed deeply into the lungs, but can irritate the nose and throat.

Finer microscopic particles and gases are small enough to be breathed deeply into the lungs, and can cause smoke-related negative health effects.

Planned burns

Planned burns are designed to protect life, property and the environment. Planned fires reduce fuel levels and therefore bushfire risk, and maintain the health of plants and animals.

However, smoke from planned burns can affect human health. To minimise any possible health effects during smoky conditions:

  • wait until the planned burn is over before you exercise vigorously, or participate in prolonged or heavy physical activity, especially outdoors
  • stay indoors, if possible, and keep windows and doors closed
  • continue to take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor if you have a heart or lung condition
  • if you are an asthmatic, follow your personal asthma management plan, and keep a reliever or inhaler on hand.

People with asthma or respiratory conditions who develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing or chest pain should follow their prescribed treatment plan. If symptoms do not settle, seek medical advice.

For further advice on planned burns and what you can do to minimise the effects of smoke exposure on your health, or the health of someone in your care, watch the video Planned burns – smoke and your health.

For more detailed information about the time, location and status of planned burns, visit the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning's information on planned burns for the next ten days Check for fire warnings in your area: www.emergency.vic.gov.au

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