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Smoke Inhalation from a Fire

Fire Statistics
In 2007 U.S. fire departments responded to over 1.5 million fires.  In these fires over 3,000 people were killed and another 17,675 were injured.  Last year a fire injury occurred every 30 minutes.  There is no doubt that a fire can be deadly and though the fire itself is extremely dangerous, the smoke it generates can be just as hazardous.      

How Smoke Causes Lung Damage
Smoke inhalation causes damage in the following ways:

  • 1. Smoke is carried by very hot air. When inhaled, this air may cause burns in the nose, mouth and upper respiratory system.
  • 2. Smoke can irritate lung tissues. Any toxic material carried by the smoke can cause physical damage to the lungs as they rub across sensitive lung tissue.
  • 3. Smoke can cause harm as it cuts off the supply of oxygen to the body. As oxygen is prevented from entering the blood stream cells and tissues begin to die from oxygen starvation.

Diagnosis is Key
Damage from smoke inhalation may not appear immediately following exposure.  Symptoms may not appear for 24-48 hours after the damage has occurred.  At this point, effective treatment options are limited.  This wait can have serious and long lasting effects on the injured party.  If the victim has an existing condition such as asthma, a delay in treatment can cause irrevocable damage.  Even if the victim does not have a prior respiratory condition postponing treatment can cause a number of chronic lung or respiratory disorders. 

Initial Signs and Symptoms of Lung Damage
Only a doctor can accurately diagnose lung damage.  Please see your doctor immediately if you have been exposed to smoke and believe that you have been injured.  The following signs and symptoms are some of the most common after exposure to smoke:

- Persistent cough
- Hoarseness
- Shortness of breath
- Headache, nausea or vomiting
- Tearing of the eyes
- Disorientation or confusion
- Fainting/Dizziness
- Excessive salivation

It is imperative that you receive competent medical care after exposure to smoke.  Prompt treatment can help alleviate your pain and prevent further damage. 

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