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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Smoke Inhalation

Smoke Inhalation Treatment

Self-Care at Home

Remove the person with smoke inhalation from the scene to a location with clean air.

Make sure that you are not putting yourself in danger before you attempt to pull someone from a smoke-filled environment. If you would be taking a serious risk to help the person, wait for trained professionals to arrive at the scene.

If necessary, CPR should be initiated by trained bystanders until emergency medical help arrives.

Medical Treatment

A number of treatments may be given for smoke inhalation.

  • Oxygen: Oxygen is the mainstay of treatment. It may be applied with a nose tube or mask or through a tube put down the throat. If there are signs of upper airway problems, for example hoarseness, the person may need to be intubated. To do this, the doctor places a tube down down the person's throat to keep the airway from closing due to swelling. If there is respiratory distress or mental status changes, the person may be intubated to let the staff help with breathing, to suction off mucus, and keep the person from breathing the contents of his or her own stomach.
  • Bronchoscopy: Bronchoscopy is a procedure done to look at the degree of damage to the airways through a small scope and to allow suctioning of secretions and debris. Usually it's done through an endotracheal tube (a thin tube with a camera attached) after the person has been given sedation and pain relievers. The procedure may be needed if there is growing respiratory failure, failure to demonstrate clinical improvement, or a segment of the lung remains collapsed.
  • Hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO): If the person has carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperbaric oxygenation may be considered. Hyperbaric oxygenation is a treatment in which the person is given oxygen in a compression chamber. Some studies have shown that hyperbaric oxygenation causes a reduction in symptoms of the nervous system. In cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, it may make recovery quicker. The indications for and availability of this treatment vary depending on the institution and the region in which the person is hospitalized.

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