Smoke can release dangerous chemicals, depending on what is burned, fire temperature and how much oxygen is surrounding the fire.
Smoke inhalation, unfortunately, occurs when a person breathes in smoke from burning gases or materials and is the leading cause of death in the event of a fire.
Inhaling smoke can irritate the lungs and airways, causing them to swell and block oxygen from entering the bloodstream. In the worst-case scenario, smoke inhalation can lead to respiratory failure and death – requiring immediate treatment to limit further difficulty and complications.
Every year, there are still around 30 accidental deaths due to acute CO poisoning in England and Wales, and over 200 non-fatal poisonings requiring medical attention in the hospital. More than half of fire-related deaths result from smoke inhalation.
Causes of smoke inhalation
Smoke inhalation mostly occurs in an enclosed space during a fire. Any damage to individuals is often caused through asphyxiation, which creates a lack of oxygen and severely irritates the lungs.
Symptoms of smoke inhalation
Symptoms of smoke inhalation entirely depend on the composition of smoke inhaled and the duration of time the inhalation occurred. If you are concerned, general symptoms often include:
- Sinus irritation
- Shortness of breath, hoarseness
- Chest pain
- Issues with vision
- Loss of consciousness
- Cardiovascular issues such as cardiac arrest
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
If carbon monoxide is contained within the smoke, individuals may experience carbon monoxide poisoning. These symptoms will differ depending on the level and duration of exposure. General symptoms can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tension-focused headache
- Increased heart rate
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Respiratory arrest
- Soot in the nostrils and/or throat
Smoke inhalation treatment and aftermath
When treating someone for smoke inhalation, the typical first aid responses include:
- Get the individual away from the area where smoke inhalation occurs and into a safe, clean space with plenty of air
- If you are putting yourself in danger by attempting to pull someone from the danger zone, it is recommended that you wait for safety professionals to arrive
- CPR may be required by trained bystanders in the wait for emergency medical care to arrive at the scene
After a patient has received hospital care or check-up, follow-up care is introduced, including:
- Various medication prescriptions, such as inhalers or pain-related medications
- Surgical solutions for persistent hoarseness of the voice
Prevention of smoke inhalation
Installing smoke alarms
Smoke alarms are essential detection equipment if you want to keep a building and its residents as safe as possible. They can detect the early presence of smoke and fire before it becomes unmanageable, giving people the time to evacuate the building or prevent the fire and smoke from spreading further.
Consider smoke and fire curtains
The main cause of death in a fire continues to be excessive smoke inhalation. Fire curtains help prevent the spread of smoke and flames, therefore reducing the risk of death due to inhalation.
Coopers Fire dedicates time and effort to advancing fire curtain and smoke curtain technology and improving ways to safeguard life and property. This commitment to developing innovative products that are robustly tested and independently certified has meant that Coopers has become the benchmark used by Regulators, Architects, Engineers and other Fire Professionals worldwide. Get in touch today to find out more.