Smoke Inhalation - Prevention & Treatment

Smoke Inhalation

Many Commercial Fire Regulations are in place to prevent unfortunate fires, however, accidents happen. In the case where inhalation of combustible material from a fire occurs, that’s when smoke inhalation becomes a real problem. The severity depends on the type of materials being burned – the chemicals released during the combustion process, the amount of oxygen available as well as the temperature of the fire. Smoke inhalation, simply stated, is a lack of oxygen damaging the body through chemicals or thermal irritants - or both.


  • Shortness of breath.
  • Red and irritated eyes from the smoke.
  • Change in mental status including seizures, fainting, confusion and even a coma.
  • Coughing up clear or black mucus depending the severity of damage to your lungs or trachea.
  • Hoarseness or noisy breathing.
  • Soot in the nostrils or throat.
  • Your skin colour could vary from pale, to bluish to cherry red.


  • Check you’re A, B, C’s – Airway, Breathing, Circulation.
  • Receive oxygen through a tube or mask.
  • Have a Bronchoscopy done to assess the damage.
  • Pulse oximetry to check the level of oxygen in your blood.
  • Receive a chest X-ray and perhaps a follow-up X-ray to check for delayed damage.
  • Have your Carboxyhemoglobin and Methemoglobin levels checked.
  • In the worst case scenario, CPR should be administered.


  • Appropriate fire maintenance systems such as Fire Sprinklers as well as Smoke Detectors should be present in each room of the building, as well as tested to ensure it’s still in working order.
  • Escape routes should be planned by the company and tested by each employee every few months.
  • Emergency numbers such as the local Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services should be clearly visible within the office.
  • Employees should be trained in how to use a Fire Extinguisher properly.
  • Fire Extinguishers should be inspected periodically to ensure its functioning properly.
  • The company should check that it adheres to the South African Building Regulations’ fire protection standards fully.

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