Managing exposure to bushfire smoke

With the escalation of fires over the Christmas break, many parents are concerned about the impacts of inhaled smoke from these fires.

Bushfire smoke contains gases and tiny particles that can irritate airways, enter lungs and cause symptoms such as watery eyes, runny noses, sneezing and coughing.

Symptoms are usually short-lived but if your child has a chronic illness or is immune-compromised, limiting exposure to smoke is advised.

Here are a few suggestions to help:

  • If you are in an area with heavy smoke inundation, one of the best strategies is to limit outdoor activities. Understanding air quality can help you plan holiday activities with kids to make the most of predicted smoke levels. Air quality can be checked on the Planning, Industry and Environment website.
  • You might like to use a P2 (also labelled as N95) mask. Most P2 masks are made for adults so fitting these on children is vitally important so that air and smoke does not creep in around gaps where the mask covers nose, chin or cheeks.
  • Some mask manufacturers, such as Cambridge Masks make child-sized masks that are covered in fabric. These may be easier to fit, than paper masks due to their flexibility.
  • The Department of Health has produced a factsheet on the use of masks. It explains their use and some of the disadvantages in using them for prolonged periods of time.
  • Remember, surgical masks do not filter particulate matter in smoke and will not provide protection.
  • If your child is displaying increased symptoms of asthma or other breathing-related condition, visit your doctor promptly to review their medication.
  • Correct use of inhalers is also important—have a look at our Using Asthma devices videos—they are a great resource and are available in Mandarin, Nepali, Bangla, Korean, Arabic, and Vietnamese.

NSW Health has put together this information to help you

If you need resources about supporting children through trauma, see our Health Column.