• Bushfire smoke can reduce air quality in rural and urban areas, and may affect people’s health.
  • Planned burns are an important part of reducing the risk of bushfires.
  • The smoke from planned burns can also affect your health in the same way as the smoke from unplanned bushfires.

Bushfire smoke

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

The larger particles in bushfire smoke contribute to the visible haze when a fire is burning. They are generally too large to be breathed into your lungs, but may irritate your nose and throat.

The finer, microscopic particles and gases in bushfire smoke  can be breathed into your lungs and cause health problems.

Find out more about bushfire smoke and what you can do to limit its effects on your health.

Planned burns

Planned burns are designed to protect life, property and the environment. Planned burns reduce bushfire risk by reducing the amount of fuel for bushfires and keep plants and animals healthy.

Smoke from planned burns can affect your health in different ways, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma or heart disease), and the length of time you are exposed to the smoke.

To minimise any possible health effects of smoke from planned burns:

  • Wait until the planned burn is over before you exercise or do long periods of physical activity, especially outdoors.
  • Stay indoors, if possible, and keep windows and doors closed.
  • Switch air conditioners to ‘recirculate’ or ‘reuse’ air. If they don’t have that function, turn them off.
  • Take an air-conditioned break at a local library or shopping centre if your home gets uncomfortable and it’s safe to do so.
  • 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.

Look out for signs of short-term smoke irritation, such as itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose and coughing. These will usually clear up in healthy adults once you’re away from the smoke.

If you have a heart or lung condition (including asthma)and develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing or chest pain, follow your prescribed treatment plan. If symptoms do not settle, see you doctor.

Contact the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226 for information on bushfires and planned burns.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 10 days.

Where to get help

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Environmental health

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Environmental health basics

House and garden

Chemical and metal pollutants

Air and water quality

Food quality and safety

Bushfires, floods and extreme weather

Public health and disease control

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Department of Health and Human Services - RHP&R - Health Protection - Environmental Health Unit

Last updated: March 2016

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