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Smoke Inhalation

Updated on February 28, 2013
If smoke fills the air so badly that you have trouble seeing, just think about what it's doing to your breathing.
If smoke fills the air so badly that you have trouble seeing, just think about what it's doing to your breathing. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Smoke inhalation is considered the primary cause of fire related deaths. A whopping 50 to 80% of those fire related death, in fact, are due to smoke inhalation. So what is smoke inhalation? What are the symptoms and treatments for smoke inhalation?

What is Smoke Inhalation?

Smoke inhalation is defined as a respiratory injury occurring from to exposure to hot gas produced by combustion. The hot smoke kills through its combination of heat damage, carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning, and irritation to and swelling of pulmonary tissues. The smoke components causing the damage include simple asphyxiants (burning off of oxygen and replacement with carbon dioxide); irritant compounds (particulates produced during combustion); and chemical asphyxiants (sulfur dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, chlorine).

Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation

Several symptoms arise from smoke inhalation, including: red and irritated eyes, skin color changing to a pale blue, coughing, shortness of breath, hoarseness, headache, changes in mental status (sleepiness, confusion, fainting, seizures, coma), nausea and vomiting, soot collecting in the nose and throat, singed nostril hairs, and burns around the nose, mouth and face. Most victims who survive the initial assault, require hospitalization and some even require mechanical ventilation.

Treatments For Smoke Inhalation

Minor cases of smoke inhalation can be treated at home with rest, minimal exertion, and clean air. However, most cases will require treatment at a hospital. Hospital treatments include humidified oxygen therapy, tracheal and lung suctioning, administration of bronchodilators, a bronchosocopy to assess damage to the trachea and bronchial tubes, hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments for severe smoke inhalation, and CPR, and endotracheal tube, and mechanical respiration in extreme cases. Once released from the hospital, smoke inhalation patients require follow visits with a physician to assess the possibility of long term damage and are asked to refrain from smoking. Medications may include inhalers and pain medications.


Holstedge , Christopher P. e-Medicine Health. Smoke Inhalation.

Wikipedia. Smoke Inhalation.

BBC Health. Smoke Inhalation.

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    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 4 years ago from India

      Short and succinct informative hub. Good work.