Bushfire and smoke can cause many health issues or exacerbate existing conditions.

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Smoke irritation

Smoke from bushfires is made up of very small particles and gases. Smoke particles in the air can irritate your eyes, nose and throat. The particles are so small they can also penetrate deep into the lungs.

Signs and symptoms of smoke irritation include:

  • itchy/burning eyes
  • runny nose
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • irritated sinuses
  • throat irritation
  • cough.

For most people these symptoms are temporary.

People with a lung or heart condition such as emphysema, angina and asthma will generally have similarly mild symptoms, but they may experience a worsening of their condition that could lead to a more severe response such as an asthma attack or heart attack.

If you are having trouble breathing, go to an emergency department or ring triple zero (000) for an ambulance.


Smoke related medical symptoms from Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Executive Director of Health Protection, NSW Health

Transcript: Smoke related medical symptoms from Dr Jeremy McAnulty

Asthma and other lung conditions

People with existing lung conditions, such as asthma, may experience an exacerbation of their symptoms and should prepared to activate their Asthma (or COPD) Action Plan.

For information about what to do in an asthma emergency refer to Asthma Australia - Asthma First Aid.

The Sydney Children's Hospital Network also has useful information on asthma in children, including videos and resources in languages other than English.

Burns

Whatever the depth of a burn, the initial treatment is always the same:

  1. remove any clothing or jewellery near the affected area
  2. place the burn under cool running water for at least 20 minutes
  3. seek medical attention for burns that are:
    • large
    • partial of full thickness
    • affecting the face or neck
    • crossing a joint
    • completely encircling a finger, toe or limb.

Do not use ice or iced water and take care not to induce hypothermia (low body temperature) - keep the person warm.

For more information refer to healthdirect - burns and scalds.

Page Updated: Friday 20 December 2019
Contact page owner: Environmental Health