Policymakers at global level recognise that household biomass use in developing countries has significant health consequences. However, it is unclear how local-level health professionals perceive and respond to such health effects. This paper which is derived from the findings of a larger study on perceptions and responses to the harmful health effects of carrying heavy firewood loads and to smoke from cooking fires is based on a study conducted in South Africa among managers of health programmes and community nurses of Qaukeni and Mhlontlo municipalities in rural Eastern Cape. Interviews and participant observations were conducted in 2009 using ethnographic grounded theory approaches. In addition to a 10-month period of ethnographic fieldwork, ten programme managers and nurses in two villages were interviewed about health patterns in the villages that they serve, their perceptions of, and responses to the health effects of carrying heavy firewood loads, and inhalation of smoke from wood and dung cooking fires, their professional qualifications and experience, their own household energy use; and observations made as they served clinic clients. Results show that these programme managers and nurses perceive the health effects of carrying heavy loads of firewood and of cooking smoke as minor. Sometimes, nurses give women symptomatic relief for musculoskeletal pain resulting from carrying heavy loads. We posit that their perceptions are derived from customary neglect of work-related health and non-communicable diseases, cultural interpretations of womanhood, limited access to relevant information, and limited interactions between health and energy sector professionals. We conclude that culturally and gender-sensitive awareness programmes are needed for local-level health professionals to effectively address health effects of biomass collection and use. This paper provides new insights into overlooked differences between globally-driven initiatives to address health effects of biomass use and local perceptions.