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Bushfires

In an emergency call triple zero (000)

Bushfire smoke

Bushfire smoke can cause breathing difficulties, itchy eyes, throat irritation and exacerbate existing conditions, like asthma, heart and lung conditions. Visit the bushfire smoke and your health section for advice and more information.

Mental health

We are all susceptible to the effects of stress and grief during and after a disaster or an emergency, and sometimes we need extra help to cope.

For crisis mental health support, contact the Mental Health Triage Service on 13 14 65. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Information about accessing priority assistance following the November 2015 Pinery Bushfire is available from the Northern Health Network website and on telephone (08) 8209 0700.

Food safety in an emergency

After a power outage, the food in your fridge and freezer might not be safe to eat. For tips on keeping your food cool and what to do with your perishables when the power comes back on, visit the food safety in an emergency page.

Rainwater quality and bushfires

Bushfires generate large amounts of ash and debris, which can contaminate rainwater supplies. Although the presence of ash and debris in rainwater does not represent a health risk, it could affect colour, turbidity and taste. Similarly, fire retardants should not present a risk to health. However, there are some simple steps to take to ensure your rainwater supply is suitable for drinking after a bushfire. For more information, see the Bushfires and rainwater quality page.

For more information

Visit the SA Country Fire Service website to keep up-to-date with information for specific bushfire incidents.

The Bushfire Recovery website is the official source of the most up-to-date news and information about the relief and recovery effort.

Bushfire smoke and your health

Bushfire smoke can reduce the quality of the air you breathe.

How can bushfire smoke affect health?

Smoke from a bushfire is made up of large particulate matter from burning debris which irritates the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. The finer particles are able to penetrate deep into the lung tissue and are more harmful. Smoke also contains toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Bushfire smoke, if present in high enough concentrations, can cause a number of health problems, such as:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing and coughing
  • burning eyes
  • running nose
  • chest tightness
  • chest pain
  • dizziness or lightheadedness.

Bushfire smoke can also aggravate existing health problems.

Symptoms

Symptoms can occur after exposure so it is important to be vigilant and to continue any previously prescribed treatment.

Preventative measures

To minimise the effect from exposure to bushfire smoke:

  • stay indoors and close windows, doors and, where possible, air vents
  • stay in air-conditioned premises, if possible. Switch refrigerated air-conditioner to 'recycle' or 'recirculate'. Evaporative air conditioners should be turned off at the first sign of thick, heavy smoke
  • reduce other sources of air pollution or household activities such as cooking with gas, burning candles or vacuum cleaning
  • avoid vigorous activities especially if the older person has asthma or other chronic lung or heart conditions.

Face masks

Ordinary paper dusk masks, handkerchiefs or bandanas do not filter out fine particles from bushfire smoke and are generally not very useful in protecting your lungs.

Special masks (called 'P2' or N95') filter bushfire smoke, providing a greater protection against inhaling fine particles. They are available at most hardware stores.

Further information

For further information on bushfire smoke for older people, see the Advice for older people fact sheet (PDF 257KB).

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