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How Wood heater smoke can trigger your asthma

Wood heater smoke, like bush fire smoke, is air pollution and is bad for human health. It can lead to more asthma symptoms and attacks. 

Wood smoke contains fine particulate matter PM2.5 which is very harmful, plus many other pollutants. 

When you breathe in wood heater smoke, fine particles can reach deep into your lungs. If you have asthma, your airways can swell in response, limiting air flow. This makes it hard to breathe and could trigger an asthma attack. 

PM2.5 is so small it can enter the bloodstream via the lungs and cause other health effects. 

There is no safe level of PM2.5 which means even low levels of wood smoke can cause harm.


  • People living with asthma or other lung illness 
  • People with heart illness 
  • Pregnant people and their unborn babies 
  • Children 
  • Elderly people 

People with asthma can be first to feel the effects of wood heater smoke.  


What to do

If you live close to outside sources of wood heater smoke: 

  • Avoid the polluted air as much as you can. You can close windows and doors at peak times such as early morning or evening. When doing outside exercise try in the middle of the day when people are burning less. 
  • Use your preventer regularly and as usual 
  • Always carry your reliever puffer  
  • Keep a copy of your Asthma Action Plan  with you (e.g. on your phone) 
  • If you can’t avoid breathing smoke, wearing a P2 or N95 mask can be somewhat protective. These need to be well fitted to work well. 

If you think wood smoke in your neighbourhood is excessive you may want to: 

  • Speak with your neighbours 
  • Approach your local council 
  • Approach your state’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA)

Wood heater smoke is a main source of winter air pollution in many areas. We want governments to help phase them out by helping homes switch to other heating options. Read more. 


While we all need to stay warm in winter, there are better options than a wood fire. Wood heaters, wood stoves and unflued gas heaters can all trigger an increase in asthma symptoms. 

Reverse cycle air conditioners are better at heating and cooling homes. They also come with options such as ‘dry’ mode to keep moisture levels low in humid conditions.  

The Victorian Government and the Australian Capital Territory Government offer rebates to eligible households to replace their wood heater with reverse cycle air conditioning. 

Other options: 

  • Electric heating: Electric heaters can be good as they don’t emit or circulate smoke, gases or dust.  
  • Insulation: You might be able to improve the insulation in your home. Look at simple ways to keep heat in your house, such as closing curtains or blinds and fixing draughts.