Stock up on P2 masks, Melbourne because the thick cloud of smoke that’s currently filling the air is expected to hang around until the end of the week.

If you live in Melbourne, there’s a fair chance you woke up this morning to the smell of smoke filling your home, with the air quality quickly dropping from bad to worse.

The air quality index dropped to “very poor” on Monday evening, with most areas of the city deteriorating throughout the day.

In addition to the “very poor” air quality, visibility in parts of Melbourne was reduced to a measly 500 metres.

The conditions are particularly hazardous to the young, the elderly, pregnant women and people with heart and lung conditions.

“So for those people in particular, they really need to try and minimise their exposure to smoke,” Victoria chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton said.

Tom Delamotte of the Bureau of Meteorology told The Age that the thick cloud of smoke would hang around until at least Tuesday morning, but Melburnians can expect to be breathing in the hazy conditions throughout the rest of the week.

The smoke we’re currently experiencing comes from the horrific East Gippsland bushfires, with winds blowing the smoke out towards the Bass Strait before sending it towards the city.

“That increasing of the southerly winds may help to flush a bit of the smoke out of Melbourne into the north … [but] there’s a lot of smoke over the Bass Strait at the moment. So it will remain hazy in Melbourne, though potentially not as bad as right now” Delamotte told The Age.

The long-term health consequences of the hazardous air are difficult to comprehend, so experts are urging vulnerable groups such as the pregnant, ill, young or elderly to stay indoors wherever possible and avoid strenuous exercise.

“What we’re finding now is that air pollution tends to affect all parts of the body,” Sutton said. “There is increasing evidence around air pollution and neurological conditions, for example Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.”

This is no exaggeration, it isn’t scaremongering. The short and long-term impacts of air pollution can be dangerous, so play it safe and look after yourself and your mates.

P2 masks and air purifiers are in short supply, so if you can’t get your hands on any, try to remain indoors, preferably in areas with purified air.

Image: Twitter / @likeajumprope