Smoke Inhalation Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on October 13, 2019

Call 911

1. Get Emergency Help If the Person:

  • Is unconscious
  • Is dizzy or confused
  • Has chest pain or tightness
  • Is coughing or choking violently
  • Has wheezing, shortness of breath, or irregular breathing
  • Has ash or smoke around mouth and nose
  • Has burns inside mouth, throat, and nose
  • Has swollen airways
  • Has black or gray saliva
  • Is nauseated or vomiting
  • Is hoarse
  • Has double or blurry vision
  • Has numbness or tingling in their extremities

If the person is alert, ask if they have a lung disease such as COPD or asthma, and check to see if the person's acute inhaler is nearby for the person to self-administer.


2. Get the Person to Safety

  • Move the person into fresh air if you can do so safely.
  • Sit or lay the person down on their side, not their back. If the person is vomiting or coughing up phlegm, you don't want them choking on it.

3. Give CPR

While waiting for help, if the person is not breathing, give CPR:

If the person has pale and clammy skin, glazed eyes, sweating, rapid and shallow breathing, weakness, dizziness, or vomiting:

  • Make sure emergency help in on its way, and do what you can to treat the person for shock until it arrives. See Shock Treatment.

4. Go to a Hospital Emergency Room

  • The person should be examined immediately, even if there are no symptoms.
  • Damage from toxin inhalation may not show up for hours and can worsen quickly.

5. Follow Up

At the hospital, the next steps depend on the particular case.

  • A doctor will examine the person's airways for damage, do tests, and may administer oxygen.
  • The person may be hospitalized.
WebMD Medical Reference



James Madison University: "First Aid at Fire Scenes."

Kaiser Permanente: "Smoke Inhalation: After Your Visit."

Capt. William Amable, EMT, captain, Pacifica Fire Department, Calif


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