Smoke Inhalation: How to Detect and Handle An Emergency


Many people may think that burns from extreme temperatures are the most hazardous aspect of fires, but the leading cause of death from them is actually smoke inhalation. Whether it’s a house, apartment, work or forest fire, most people who perish in fires do so from suffocation. Smoke inhalation can cause a host of injuries including damage to the upper airway and asphyxiation as a result of breathing too much carbon monoxide among other toxic gases. To increase the likelihood of surviving a smoke inhalation incident and decrease the long-term health effects, follow these three guidelines for spotting and responding to a dangerously smoky situation.

1) Look for the Signs of Smoke Inhalation

If a person is unconscious, dizzy, or coughing violently after breathing heavy smoke, he or she needs emergency help as quickly as possible. Decreased breathing, chest pains and burns to the face are also telltale signs that someone has been exposed to too much smoke and requires first aid.

2) Bring the Person to Fresh Air

Getting the person away from the smoke and into fresh air as soon as possible is critical. If you can safely remove him or her from the smoky area, you will significantly minimize potential damage to his or her airways. To prevent choking, it’s a good idea to have people lay on their side in case they start coughing up phlegm as a result of breathing too much smoke.

3) Administering CPR

If the person isn’t breathing once you bring him or her into fresh air, you will need to start giving CPR while waiting for emergency help to arrive. It’s important to remember that CPR techniques differ for adults and children, which is why learning the two procedures, as well as first aid training, from an American Heart Association CPR instructor is a wise move.

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