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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Smoke Inhalation

Next Steps


Once the person leaves the hospital, follow-up care is typically arranged. If the condition worsens doesn't improve the way it is expected to after discharge, the person should return immediately to the emergency department.

Medications such as various inhalers and pain medications may be prescribed. There may still be shortness of breath with minimal exertion. It may take time for the lungs to fully heal, and some people may have scarring and shortness of breath for the rest of their lives. It's important to avoid triggering factors such as cigarette smoke.

Persistent hoarseness may occur in people who have sustained burn or smoke inhalation injuries or both. Early attention to these problems, many of which are treatable surgically, behaviorally or both, could lead to an improved voice.


Prevention is key when discussing smoke inhalation. Numerous prevention strategies can be employed to avoid exposure to smoke.

  • Smoke detectors should be placed in every room of an occupied building. This should ensure early detection of smoke and allow time for evacuation.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in locations at risk for carbon monoxide exposure (such as from near furnaces or garages).
  • Escape routes and plans for how to escape should be worked out before there is a fire and reviewed periodically.
  • Numbers for the police, fire department, and the local poison control center should be kept in a visible place for an emergency. Find the poison control center now by checking the Web site of the American Association of Poison Control Centers.


Media file 1: A smoke inhalation victim. Note the soot in the nostrils and the degree of swelling of the face. His voice was hoarse upon arrival. He had an endotracheal intubation performed (a tube was placed in his airway to help him breathe) because of concern of significant airway edema (swelling) and potential for airway obstruction.
Smoke Inhalation Photo

Media type: Photo

Media file 2: State-of-the-art hyperbaric oxygen chamber by HyperTec.

Smoke Inhalation Photo

Media type: Photo

Media file 3: State-of-the-art single person chamber by HyperTec.

Smoke Inhalation Photo

Media type: Photo

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 11, 2014
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