Key messages

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

Health effects of bushfire smoke

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.

Minimising possible health effects during smoky conditions

  • If you have asthma or respiratory conditions, follow your prescribed asthma management plan and keep a reliever or inhaler on hand.
  • If you have heart or lung conditions, continue to take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Stay indoors if possible, and keep windows and doors closed.
  • If you develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing or chest pain, follow your prescribed treatment plan (if you have one), but if symptoms don't settle, seek medical advice.
  • Wait until the smoky conditions clear before exercising vigorously, or participating in prolonged or heavy physical activity, especially outdoors.

Check for local fire warnings on the Vic Emergency website.

The Environment Protection Agency has more information and resources on the effects of bushfire smoke and how people can protect their health.

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.

For more detailed information about the time, location and status of planned burns, visit the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning's information on planned burns for the next ten days.