Pot smoke remains in your lungs

What to do with smoke inhalation - symptoms & first aid

Fires are life-threatening and in many cases cause serious injuries. Not only the burns suffered by the victims but also the smoke inhalation caused by them should not be underestimated.

Smoke gas poisoning is the poisoning through inhalation of fire smoke. The component carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous. The odorless gas leads to unconsciousness after just a few breaths and later to death. Most fire victims (90%) do not die from burns but from asphyxiation at night because they do not notice the smoke gas. The greatest dangers of an apartment fire lurk in your own four walls - forgotten stove, burning candles, smoldering cigarette butts, etc.

That is why there is a smoke detector requirement in Germany. Smoke alarms warn of fire smoke with a loud acoustic signal, and those affected can get to safety in good time.

Causes of smoke inhalation

The most common cause of smoke poisoning is building fires. But inhalation of exhaust gases or barbecue smoke are also possible causes. Defective boilers or stoves can also lead to smoke poisoning.

It becomes particularly dramatic when the smoke gas contains the breath poison cianid (hydrogen cyanide). Cianid is created, among other things, by the various burning objects.

Inhaled cyanide blocks the functionality of body cells, so that the cells lack oxygen. As a result, internal suffocation often occurs.

Symptoms of smoke inhalation

The inhalation of smoke gases can lead to serious damage to health. Smoke gases are produced by burns. The composition of the smoke gases depends on the substances that burn. However, they mostly consist of these three large groups:

  • Irritant gases (hydrogen chloride and sulfur dioxide): They have a corrosive effect on mucous membranes and the respiratory tract
  • Toxic gases (carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide) They prevent the transport of oxygen and lead to suffocation
  • Soot particles cause burns in the lungs and mucous membranes

The first signs of smoke inhalation are in the affected person

  • a headache
  • strong cough
  • Vomit
  • unconsciousness
  • dizziness
  • Circulatory and respiratory problems.
  • red to bluish discoloration of the skin

Caution: If you are poisoned by carbon monoxide, your face remains pink despite the lack of oxygen.

External circumstances such as smoke and the smell of gas also suggest that the person concerned has already inhaled toxic gas. In such cases, extreme caution is required during rescue operations so as not to endanger yourself. The rescue workers should be alerted immediately.

First aid for smoke inhalation

If you come into the situation of providing first aid to a person with smoke inhalation, you should urgently take the following steps:

  • Alert the emergency call
  • You should urgently observe the self-protection during rescue measures
  • Open windows and doors and provide oxygen supply if possible
  • Bring person out of danger
  • Check the person's vital functions (breathing, circulation)
  • If the person is conscious, have a calming effect on you and find out whether there are other people in the room or building.
  • If you are short of breath, position the person with the upper body raised
  • In the event of unconsciousness, initiate a stable lateral position and, if necessary, take life-saving measures (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, respiratory donation)
  • Wait until the ambulance arrives

Dramatic long-term consequences from smoke gas poisoning

The consequences of smoke inhalation can occur with a delay. It is therefore important that every person who has come into contact with smoke has a medical examination. This is the only way to prevent possible long-term effects and minimize further risks.

The lack of oxygen, for example, can lead to chronic asthma, which can be improved somewhat with regular inhalation. However, healing is a long process. Depending on the severity of the smoke poisoning, it can also happen that the patient has to be artificially ventilated. To do this, he is supplied with pure oxygen through a tube that is placed in the windpipe. Furthermore, the heart can be damaged because the oxygen supply is interrupted by the inhaled carbon monoxide. It is not adequately supplied and it can lead to shortness of breath during exertion.

In the case of smoke poisoning, it is not only the gases that trigger the consequences, but also small parts of what has been burned settle in the body. The heat burns the mucous membranes, which has the consequence that the tissue is destroyed and thus pollutants get into the organism faster and can lead to infections.