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Smoke inhalation symptoms

Smoke irritation

The smoke from bushfires has raised health concerns for people living in all areas of Australia. The reason for these concerns is that bushfire smoke can cause adverse health effects.

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

The larger particles (the smoke haze) are visible to the eye when a fire is burning. They are generally too large to breathe deeply into the lungs but can irritate the nose and throat.

Smaller particles and gases are fine enough to breathe deep into the lungs and can cause harmful health effects.

Cloth and paper masks can stop aerosols and water droplets which may in some cases be helpful for preventing the spread of infections but they are not very effective at removing the microscopic particles in bushfire smoke.

A P2 mask, also known as an N95 mask, is a respirator designed to remove fine particles from the air. They can filter out the harmful particles in smoke but are only effective if there's an air-tight seal around the face. P2 (and P3) class masks are also issued to firefighters to protect them from smoke from fires, including domestic, electrical and bushfires.

The inhalation of smoke can cause several signs and symptoms that can range in severity. Signs and symptoms of smoke irritation include:

o             itchy/burning eyes

o             runny nose

o             shortness of breath

o             headaches

o             irritated sinuses

o             throat irritation

o             cough

o             difficulty breathing

For most people these symptoms are temporary.

Anyone who develops breathlessness, wheeziness, chest tightness, or a persistent cough should see their GP immediately. Borrowing someone else's inhaler or using over-the-counter Ventolin is not recommended.

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