Prominent Wollongong scientist Justin Yerbury says it's been a battle to stay out of the emergency department this bushfire season.
Weeks of poor to hazardous air quality due to fires burning close to the region have affected the health of many residents, but for those with chronic conditions it can become life-threatening.
For Professor Yerbury, who lives with motor neurone disease or MND, additional equipment and treatment has been required due to the smoke exposure.
"Due to the respiratory issues that are associated with MND, my lung capacity is compromised," he said.
"Also, I no longer possess the ability to clear my lungs. This means I am vulnerable to the unprecedented levels of air pollution caused by the fires.
"To protect myself, I have stayed inside when possible, but still, I have had smoke-associated shortness of breath and increased congestion necessitating increased interventions such as direct suctioning and cough assist."
Bushfire smoke contains small particles classed as PM2.5 - up to 1/30th the diameter of an average human hair.
"Large particles in bushfire smoke are typically those that you can see, and they are known to irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs," Prof Yerbury said.
"The smaller and finer particles are likely to be more dangerous because they are not visible and can penetrate deeper into the lungs.
"People with any respiratory disease or vulnerability, but conditions like asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or allergies are at particular risk.
"Health services are also warning smokers, people with heart disease, children and the elderly."
High levels of air pollution caused by bushfires can cause coughing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and in extreme cases, death.
"We have been vigilant in reducing my exposure to the bushfire smoke by staying inside as much as possible, keeping windows and doors closed and using an air conditioner on 'recirculate'," Prof Yerbury said.
"Regardless I have still required increased treatment, but my team and equipment have kept me out of the emergency department."
I have still required increased treatment, but my team and equipment have kept me out of the emergency department.Professor Justin Yerbury
University of Wollongong atmospheric chemist Stephen Wilson said while most people would recover quickly, and fully, from the affects of bushfire smoke, others could suffer long-term damaging effects.
"The short-term effects are easy to pick but the long-term effects - like cigarette smoking - are harder to quantify," he said.
"Bushfire smoke contains a whole soup of stuff - whatever is burning will produce smoke including trees, vehicles, buildings and other types of infrastructure.
"Breathing in all these small particles could have a long-term effect on lung capacity, on blood circulation, on a whole range of things that aren't immediately obvious."
Associate Professor Wilson said the summer smoke pollution might lead to a change in mindset for many Australians.
"In other parts of the world where there's a lot of air pollution, like certain parts of Asia, people are used to wearing masks and checking the air quality," he said.
"It's a bit of a novelty for Australians, but the last couple of months gives us reason to stop and think."