Inhalation Injury

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is inhalation injury?

The number one cause of death related to fires is inhalation injury, or it is usually called “smoke inhalation”. Smoke inhalation occurs when you breathe in the products of combustion during a fire. Combustion results from the rapid breakdown of a substance by heat, more commonly called burning.

Smoke is a mixture of heated particles and gases. It is unforeseeable the exact composition of smoke produced by a fire. The products, being burned the temperature of the fire, and the amount of oxygen available to the fire all make a difference in the type of smoke produced.

How common is inhalation injury?

An estimated 50%-80% of fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation injuries rather than burns.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of inhalation injury?

It is proved that there are various signs and symptoms of inhalation injury may build up. One of the most common symptoms may comprise of coughing, shortness of breath, hoarseness, headache, and acute mental status changes. Signs such as soot in airway passages or skin color changes may be also helpful in specifying the degree of injury.

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness or noisy breathing
  • Eyes
  • Skin color
  • Soot
  • Headache
  • Changes in mental status

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes inhalation injury?

Inhalation injury damages the body from inhaling smokes and irritants in the air can take up space for oxygen in your lung. Examples of chemical irritants are found in smoke include sulfur dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, and chlorine.

These substances damage the normal lining of the respiratory tract. This disruption potentially causes swelling, or airway collapse, or respiratory distress.

Additionally, inhaling smoke from burners or explosives can lead to thermal damage to the airways. Burning can produce compounds that do disrupt by interfering with your body’s oxygen use at a cellular level.

Carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and hydrogen sulfide are all typical examples of chemicals produced in fires that interfere with the use of oxygen by the cell.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for inhalation injury?

Excessive smoking is considered as one of the most common factors causing inhalation injury.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.


How is inhalation injury diagnosed?

A various number of tests and procedures may be ordered by your doctor immediately, depending on the severity of the signs and symptoms.

  • Chest X-ray
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Blood tests

How is inhalation injury treated?         

Inhalation injury can be treated by:

  • Self-care at home
  • Medical treatment
  • Oxygen mask
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO)

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage inhalation injury?

There are some useful tips that help you prevent inhalation injury.

  • Smoke detectors should be placed in every room of an occupied building. This should ensure early detection of smoke and allow time for evacuation.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in locations at risk for carbon monoxide exposure (such as near furnaces or garages).
  • Escape routes and plans for how to escape should be worked out before there is a fire and reviewed periodically.
  • Numbers for the police, fire department, and the local poison control center should be kept in a visible place for an emergency. If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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