Bush Fire Smoke Alert

22 November 2019
Air quality across much of the south east corner of the state is still being affected by smoke, with conditions similar to yesterday (21-11-2019). The smoke levels still vary across regions within Queensland, with areas in the vicinity of active bushfires reporting poorer air quality and many areas have air quality below that which is normally experienced.
The associated health advice remains the same as Thursday (21-11-2019). People are urged to remain vigilant while fires continue to burn in communities across the state and it is important that vulnerable groups (children, elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic disease including those with respiratory issues) continue taking precautions to protect their health.
Rainwater tanks and bore water-holding tanks impacted by bushfires and other natural disasters are likely to contain harmful material. This is likely to mean the water stored in the affected tanks will not be suitable for normal use. For more information on how to restore rainwater tanks after a bushfire see Bushfire and roof-harvested rainwater (PDF 215 kB).

Protecting your health

The community is advised to remain alert to the levels of smoke from current bushfire conditions.
It is especially important for vulnerable people to remain vigilant in the current conditions. That includes:People with pre-existing lung or heart conditions should rest as much as possible and keep away from the smoke. Anyone with a heart or lung condition should follow the treatment plan advised by their doctor and keep at least five days’ supply of medication on hand.People with asthma should follow their personal asthma plan.
Assist your vulnerable family members, neighbours and friends. It is important to identify locations that have cleaner, filtered air-conditioned spaces (e.g. shopping centres, community centres, libraries etc).
If you are experiencing any adverse reactions to the dust or smoke, such as shortness of breath, prolonged coughing or wheezing, seek medical advice.
Stay up to date with local news reports. This advice may be varied as conditions change.
All air conditioners should be switched to ‘recycle’ or ‘recirculate’ mode. If you do not have an air conditioner, take steps to reduce heat stress, especially for the very young, people who are unwell, or the elderly.
If there is a break in smoky conditions, take the opportunity to air out your home to improve indoor air quality and minimise other sources of air pollution, such as cigarette smoke
Considerations for the community include:Reduce outdoor activity if possible. If air quality is very poor, consider remaining indoors. If you are staying indoors, close all windows and doors and operate air-conditioners if available.Reduce vigorous exercise outside especially if you have asthma, diabetes, heart disease or a breathing related condition, and keep medication close by. If quality is very poor, consider avoiding vigorous exercise.
Schools and childcare centres should assess the risks of outdoor activities. Where air quality is very poor children should stay indoors in areas with air-conditioning and/or ceiling fans
Organisers of outdoor events should assess the risks and if the air quality is very poor consider postponing the event until air quality improves.
It is important to also stay hydrated by drinking water

Bushfire smoke – what is it?

Bushfire smoke is a mixture of different-sized particles, water vapour and gases, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. During bushfires and similar events, large amounts of finer particles are released that are small enough to breathe deep into the lungs and can cause adverse health effects.

More information
Contact your doctor, hospital or health clinic
Call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) at any time
Bushfire smoke and your health
Health advisory: Bushfire smoke warning 12 November 2019 (PDF 94 kB)
Check the air quality in your local area
Rainwater tanks affected by natural disasters (including bore-water tanks) (PDF 112 kB)
Bushfire and roof-harvested rainwater (PDF 212KB)

Bushfire Smoke Haze Health Risks

ABC Health & Wellbeing / By Claudine Ryan and Tegan Taylor
Posted Tue 19 Nov 2019

You can be quite a long way from a bushfire and still have it affect your health.
Bushfire smoke can travel hundreds of kilometres and it poses a range of health issues — especially for those with pre-existing heart or lung conditions.
And because bushfire smoke can cover large areas, including major cities, it has the potential to affect millions of people, according to Martine Dennekamp, an adjunct epidemiologist at Monash University.
“Research has shown that air pollution from bushfires is associated with effects on the lungs and the heart,” Dr Dennekamp said.
“For example, research in Victoria found a link between out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in Melbourne and bushfire smoke.”
These cardiac arrests occurred several hundred kilometres away from where bushfires were burning in the Victorian Alps.

What’s in bushfire smoke that makes it a health risk?

Bushfire smoke is a mixture of water vapour, small particles and gases, which may include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
These gases travel long distances and are known to irritate the respiratory system, but evidence suggests it’s the particles that are most damaging to people’s health, according to NSW Health.
The smaller and finer the particles, the more damaging they can be because they’re able to travel deeper into the lungs, Dr Dennekamp said, with particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres likely to cause the most significant concern.
Symptoms caused by these particles can continue for days after they are inhaled.

Who is at risk?

Those most likely to be affected by bushfire smoke include:
People with existing heart or lung conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic bronchitis
Pregnant women
Older people
Young children

Environmental health expert Fay Johnston from the University of Tasmania said it was important for all of these people, especially those with heart and lung conditions, to monitor their symptoms when exposed to smoke and for some days after.

How does smoke affect you?

Those in high-risk groups are going to feel any effects of bushfire smoke more than the general population.
“If you can see it or smell it then that means there is a significant amount in the air and people in high risk groups would be advised to try and minimise their exposure,” Dr Johnson said.
For instance, people with asthma may experience wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing while the smoke is around and for some days after.
Healthy people tend to tolerate being exposed to this type of pollution, although it can cause itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose and some coughing. But these symptoms usually pass once the person is no longer exposed to the smoke.

What can you do to reduce your chances of being affected?

For those in areas affected by bushfire smoke, but not under direct threat from the fires, experts recommended the following precautions to reduce the health effects.

Stay indoors

The best way to avoid breathing in bushfire smoke is stay inside with the windows and doors closed, preferably in an air-conditioned building.
Particle levels are likely to be higher outdoors than indoors, so people sensitive to fine particles should limit the time they spend outside.
Keep an eye on your local air quality by checking your local environment monitoring agency’s website for advice.

Set air conditioning on recycle

Avoid bringing smoky air into your house. If you have the option of adding a filter to your air conditioner, do so.
But take advantage of periods of clean air to ventilate your home, as smoke still penetrates indoors and can take time to disperse unless the house is opened up.

Consider a portable air filter

Portable air cleaners, available from home electrical stores, will lower the concentration of indoor particles and reduce the risk of health impacts from smoke. They will work best in a well-sealed room.
Dr Johnson recommended air cleaners with a HEPA filter to provide protection from particles.
“Devices that only humidify, generate negative ions, or absorb unpleasant smells do not reduce airborne particles,” she said.

Avoid physical activity outside

Dr Johnston said it was a good idea to avoid exercising outside when you can see smoke in the air.
“If you run or do physical activity you breathe in a lot more because you need to get a lot more oxygen in, so your ventilation increases 10-fold and that means you are increasing your pollution exposure 10-fold.”

Keep medication on hand and follow a treatment plan

People with asthma — and other health conditions — need to make sure they have any medication they need on hand at all times.
The Victorian health department recommends having five days of medication on hand. Those an asthma action plan or other treatment plan should continue to follow it.
If your symptoms get worse, seek medical advice.

Wear a mask

NSW Health Department says wearing a P1 or P2 mask (available at hardware stores) properly fitted over your mouth and nose will filter fine particles and minimise the effects of bushfire smoke.
But Dr Johnson said these masks weren’t a failsafe.
“They give some protection against smoke particles but are only effective if worn correctly with a good seal around the mouth and nose; they can make it harder to breathe and they do not filter out gases,” she explained.
“Simple paper or cloth masks do not provide protection.”

Leave the area

If the smoke continues for some weeks, or if a person’s health means they’re at higher risk because of smoke exposure, consider staying with friends or relatives outside the smoke-affected area.

Burns, Asthma & Smoke Inhalation.

First Aid for Burns

The first priority in managing a burn is to stop the burning process, cool the burn (which will provide pain relief) and cover the burn.
Ensure safety of both the rescuers and bystanders from dangers such as flames and smoke.
Do not enter a burning or toxic atmosphere without appropriate protection.
Move the casualty to a safe environment as quickly as possible.
Stop the burning process—stop, drop, roll and cover:
Smother the flames with a fire blanket or blanket-Move away from the burn source-Cool the area with water preferably, if no water is available use a hydrogel product (such as burnaid)
Assess airway and breathing immediately.
Wherever possible remove jewellery, watches and clothing from the burnt area.
DO NOT—peel off clothing stuck to the burn, use ice or ice water, break blisters or use ointments, creams or powders.
Where possible elevate the limb to reduce swelling.
Cover the area lightly with a non-stick dressing.
All infants or children with burns should be medically assessed.

How to treat smoke inhalation

Although many people associate fire casualties with heat and flames, smoke inhalation is actually the leading cause of death among those who get caught in fires.

Dizziness and confusion
Nausea or vomiting
Visible signs of ash and smoke around the mouth and nose
Grey or black saliva
Chest pain or tightness
Irregular breathing
Wheezing, shortness of breath or hoarse voice
Blurred vision
Numbness or tingling in the extremities
Burns inside the mouth, throat or nose


1. Get the person to safety and into fresh air if it is safe for you to do so.*
2. If someone is showing the above symptoms you should call 000.
3. If conscious: sit the person down or lay them on their side.
4. If alert ask the person whether they have any medical conditions.
5. If they are not breathing perform CPR.
6. Ensure the person seeks medical attention to be assessed for more serious health implications. If left untreated, severe smoke inhalation can be fatal due to complications.

*Note: If it is safe to move someone to safety, filter the smoke for both you and the casualty with a P2 mask or cloth (cloth nappy or muslin work well).

Treating smoke inhalation in someone who has asthma

People with asthma may have a more severe reaction to smoke inhalation than other people. If the person is conscious apply the following plan.
Asthma First Aid Plan
Step 1:
Sit the person comfortably upright. Be calm and reassuring. Do not leave the person alone.
Step 2:
Without delay give four separate puffs of a “reliever”. The medication is best given one puff at a time via a spacer device. If a spacer is not available, simply use the puffer.
Ask the person to take four breaths from the spacer after each puff of medication.
Use the victim’s own inhaler if possible. If not, use the first aid kit inhaler if available or borrow one from someone else.
The first aid rescuer should provide assistance with administration of a reliever if required.
Step 3:
Wait four minutes. If there is little or no improvement give another four puffs.
Step 4:
If there is still no improvement, call an ambulance immediately. Keep giving four puffs every four minutes until the ambulance arrives.

Note: If someone is showing signs of a severe asthma attack you should call an ambulance immediately and follow this Asthma First Aid Plan until they arrive.
For more information about asthma read Asthma attack onset: learning to know the signs and symptoms.




For all medical emergencies dial Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for Ambulance.

Burns can cause extreme pain and scarring. Learn how to minimise the risk of burns by following this simple advice.

Preventing Burns

Check bath water before placing a child in the bath to ensure it is a safe temperature.
Do not smoke around children but if you do, always make sure cigarettes are extinguished.
Never leave children alone in a bath.
Install fire guards on open fires and heaters.
Keep hot liquids out of children’s reach. A hot cup of coffee or tea can cause severe burns.
Dress children in garments marked ‘Low Fire Danger’ and avoid loose fitting clothes.
Do not leave saucepan handles hanging over the edge of a stove.
Never leave fires or heaters unattended.
Never leave children unattended in a room with a fire.
Have fire extinguishers and fire blankets easily accessible in the house.
Develop a simple fire escape plan for your household and make sure it is displayed in a prominent position.
Teach children fire safety from an early age.
Install and regularly check smoke detectors.

If a person is burnt

Dial Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for Ambulance.
Cool the burn area constantly with plenty of cool running water while waiting for the Ambulance.
This should be done for no less than 20 minutes.
DO NOT apply ointment, cream or butter to the affected area.
If possible remove rings and jewellery from burn areas.

First steps when a burn happens

A burn is an injury to the skin from something hot – a heater, oven, hot drink or boiling water in a kettle or saucepan. Scalds are the most common burn among children. They’re caused by hot liquids.
If your child gets a burn or scald, first make sure the area is safe and there is no risk of further injury to your child or yourself. Take your child to a safe place if possible.
If the burn or scald is over your child’s clothing, remove the clothing immediately, if it isn’t stuck to the burn. Remove watches or jewellery. Leave any blisters alone.

First aid treatment

Treat the burn under running water for 20 minutes. Do this straight away. This treatment is still useful up to three hours after the burn.
Cool the burn, not the child. If the burn is large, stop cooling it after 20 minutes. This is because hypothermia can happen quickly in children.
Cover the burn with a loose, light, non-sticky dressing such as plastic wrap or a clean, wet cloth. Raise burned limbs.

When to get medical attention

Don’t apply ice, iced water, lotions, moisturisers, oil, ointments, creams or powders to the burn. Butter or flour can make the damage worse.
Call an ambulance if the burn is to your child’s face, airway, hands or genitals, or if the burn is larger than the size of your child’s hand.
Go to a doctor or hospital if the burn is the size of a 20-cent piece or larger, or if it’s deep, raw, angry or blistered. Also go if the pain persists or is severe, or you’re not sure how bad the burn is.

For all medical emergencies dial Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for Ambulance


Dehydration / Heat Exhaustion / Heat Stroke

Dehydration – Seek medical advice if symptoms don’t improve or are severe

Mild to severe thirst (remember that thirst is satisfied before fluid loss is fully replaced).
Dry lips and tongue.
Slowed mental function and lowered performance.
Reduced or dark urine output.

First aid for dehydration

Drink water. Avoid caffeinated, carbonated and alcoholic drinks, and salt tablets.
Loosen tight clothing and remove unnecessary clothing, including Personal Protective Equipment [PPE].
In cases of extreme heat or dehydration, replace electrolytes.

Heat rash – Seek medical advice if symptoms don’t improve

Itchy rash with small raised red spots on the face, neck, back, chest or thighs.

First aid for heat rash

Move to a cooler, less humid environment.
Keep the affected area dry and remove unnecessary clothing, including PPE.
Apply a cold compress.

Heat cramps – Seek medical advice if symptoms don’t improve

Painful and often incapacitating cramps in muscles, particularly when undertaking demanding physical work.

First aid for heat cramps

Stop activity and rest quietly in a cool place until recovered.
Drink an electrolyte solution.

Fainting – Seek medical advice

Fainting (heat syncope) can occur while standing or rising from a sitting position.

First aid for fainting

Lie the person flat immediately with their legs slightly raised.
Do not raise the head.
Treat as for heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion – Call an ambulance immediately

Symptoms (not all will be present)
Dehydration, thirst, and reduced or dark urine output.
Elevated body temperature.
Weakness or fatigue.
Headaches and dizziness.
Muscle cramps.
Severe symptoms:
The person stops sweating.
Cold, pale or clammy skin.
Clumsiness or slower reaction times.
Disorientation or impaired judgement.
Rapid or short breathing.
Rapid weak pulse or heart palpitations.
Tingling or numbness in fingers or toes.
Visual disturbance.
Vomiting or an unwillingness to drink.

First aid for heat exhaustion

Move the person to a cool place with circulating air.
Lie the person flat.
Remove unnecessary clothing, including PPE.
Loosen tight clothing.
If the person is fully conscious sit them up to facilitate drinking and provide cool – not cold – fluid to drink.
Provide an electrolyte solution or water.
Cool the person with cold compresses or apply cold water to skin.
Observe the person and obtain medical advice if symptoms don’t improve.
Seek medical assistance if there is no improvement or the first-aider is in doubt.

Heat stroke – Call an ambulance immediately

Symptoms (not all will be present)
The person stops sweating.
Skin can be pink, warm and dry, or cool and blue.
High body temperature above 39 degrees Celsius.
Pounding, rapid pulse.
Headache, dizziness and visual disturbances.
Nausea and/or vomiting.
Clumsiness or slower reaction times.
Disorientation or impaired judgement.
Irritability and mental confusion.
Collapse, seizures and unconsciousness.
Cardiac arrest. Can be characterised by unconsciousness, stopped breathing and no pulse

First aid for heat stroke

Call 000 and evacuate by ambulance immediately.
Ensure that the ambulance is updated if the person experiences seizures or becomes unconscious.
If cardiac arrest occurs follow DRSABCD action plan
Move the person to a cool place with circulating air.
Remove unnecessary clothing, including PPE
Loosen tight clothing.
Cool the person by splashing room temperature water on their skin or sponging their skin with a damp cloth.
Make a wind tunnel by suspending sheets around, not on, the person’s body. Use a fan to direct gentle airflow over the person’s body.
Apply cold packs or wrapped ice to the person’s neck, groin and armpits.
If the person is fully conscious sit them up to facilitate drinking and provide cool – not cold – fluid to drink.
Provide an electrolyte solution with sugar. Do not attempt to give oral fluid if the person is not fully conscious.
Shivering is an automatic muscular reaction which warms the body. It will make the body temperature rise even further. If the person starts shivering, stop cooling immediately and cover them until they stop. Once they have stopped recommence first aid treatment.
Related materials

Guidance material: Guide for managing the risks of working in heat