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How to Identify the Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation

Sep 12, 2018|

Smoke is dangerous.

In fact, the majority of deaths from house fires are actually the result of smoke inhalation, not the fire itself.

When it comes to smoke inhalation, the more you know about it—including what it is, what causes it, and common smoke inhalation symptoms—the more you can do to prevent its effects on your long-term health. As always, the best protection is prevention, so consider a reliable smoke detector.

What is smoke inhalation?

As the name implies, smoke inhalation occurs when you breathe in products of combustion—aka smoke—during a fire.

Smoke itself is made of the harmful gases, vapors, and particles burned, so the actual composition depends on what exactly burns in the fire. For example, smoke from burning plastics or cleaning supplies can produce toxic gases and chemicals.

Smoke inhalation can lead to serious harm or death for many reasons:

  • Fire uses oxygen as it burns, which means there is little to no oxygen left to breathe.
  • A fire produces poisonous gases like carbon monoxide.
  • Smoke can damage the lungs and airway, leading to respiratory failure.

What are the symptoms of smoke inhalation?

The signs of smoke inhalation will vary depending on the type of smoke and the length of exposure to it.

For example, breathing in a little smoke during a campout outdoors will not have the same effect on the body as breathing in toxic smoke from burning rubber in an enclosed space. Long-term effects of smoke inhalation can be incredibly damaging to the body, leading to cardiovascular illness and even death.

What are the signs of smoke inhalation?

Some of the symptoms of smoke inhalation include:

  • Coughing. This is one of the first symptoms. Coughing is a reflex that occurs when your respiratory tract is irritated.
  • Coughing up blood or black mucus, from the smoke and particles in the air.
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or hoarseness, which happens when the respiratory tract is injured or there's a lack of oxygen in the air.
  • Burning eyes from smoke getting into the eyes.
  • Changes in skin color, ranging from a pale color to cherry-red (a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning).
  • Headache, nausea and vomiting. These serious symptoms are also symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Confusion or fainting. When the brain is deprived of oxygen, it can lead to confusion and eventual fainting or loss of consciousness.

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What is the treatment for smoke inhalation?

When it comes to smoke inhalation, it’s vital to act fast to avoid more serious health risks. Loss of consciousness or death can occur anywhere from 2-10 minutes. Get to clear air as quickly as possible and call 911 immediately.

Healthcare professionals will check the victim’s “A.B.C’s”—Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. They may conduct a variety of tests to determine the severity of damage caused by smoke, including x-rays, blood tests, and pulse oximetry to measure the amount of oxygen or carbon dioxide in the blood.

Smoke inhalation recovery treatments

Treatments for the effects of smoke inhalation include:

  • Oxygen. Clean air in the form of oxygen is given first and foremost. This is either through a mask or, in serious cases, a tube down the throat to prevent the airway from closing.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (also known as hyperbaric oxygenation or HBO), which is a treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning that allows the patient to quickly receive large amounts of pure oxygen in order to overcome the health effects of poisoning. Therapy of this nature might take more than one session depending on the severity of symptoms caused by the smoke inhalation.
  • Medications, such as inhalers or pain killers, to help manage symptoms while recovering. Often, bronchodilator medications may also be used to expand airways and cause the lung muscles to relax.

How do you prevent smoke inhalation?

In the event of a fire, preventing smoke inhalation injury can be the difference between life and death. These preventative measures can help:

  • Install smoke detectors. Ensuring that working smoke detectors are in your home is the most important thing you can do to prevent smoke inhalation. Smoke detectors equipped with photoelectric sensors can detect increases in heat or the presence of smoke before you smell it, giving you more time to get to safety.
  • Get professional monitoring. When there's smoke in your home, the first thing on your mind will be to get you and your family to safety. With professional home security monitoring around the clock, the proper emergency personnel will be dispatched to your home, so you can focus on your safety and avoid injury.
    Vivint app notification
    Professional home security monitoring can help protect your home and family in the event of a fire.
    Plan an escape route. Make sure you have a way out of your home quickly in the event of a fire. Practice it regularly, so the entire family knows where to go.
  • If you are in a fire, get low to the ground and crawl out. Heat rises, carrying smoke and particles with it, so the air by the ground is cleaner and has less risk of high toxin levels.

The symptoms of smoke inhalation manifest quickly, and it can be deadly, so it's important to seek treatment immediately if you have any symptoms. And of course, the best way to protect yourself from even mild smoke inhalation is to avoid smoke exposure. A quality smoke sensor with reliable battery backup can help.

How do you protect against smoke inhalation?

Protect your home and family from smoke inhalation, fire, carbon monoxide, and more with a Vivint system. Give us a call at 844.481.8630 for a free quote on a comprehensive home security system.

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