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Smoke Inhalation: The Real Danger of Fires

Thick white smoke

House or flat fires can be dangerous, but often not for the reason you might think. If the flames are put out quickly, it’s still possible for people to die, even without being burned. Only around 30% of fire-related deaths or injuries are actual burns. The vast majority of people succumb to smoke inhalation instead.


If there is a fire in your home, you need to be careful of the smoke, as it can overwhelm you long before you make it out of the house. This blog from EK Fire Protection tells you the basics of what you need to know about smoke inhalation in the event of a fire.


What is smoke inhalation?

Obviously, smoke inhalation is when you breathe smoke into your lungs, but what makes this so dangerous? Fire burns up oxygen, which means smoke is made up of mostly carbon monoxide. However, that’s not all. 


Every home is packed with items that have plastic, foam, and chemically treated wood. When these things begin to burn, they put off cyanide, which is caught in the smoke. If this gets into your lungs, it prevents your body from being able to absorb oxygen. That, in combination with a severe lack of oxygen, can cause people to suffocate.


Even if you survive the fire, you may suffer from cognitive and neurological issues later.


How to avoid smoke inhalation

You should attempt to stay away from smoke in a house fire. This means staying low to the ground, as smoke rises. You can crawl along the floor to attempt to get fresher air. 


If your exit route is blocked by too much smoke or flames, you should close as many doors as possible between yourself and the fire, then block yourself into a room with a window and use clothing, towels, or paper to block the gap under the door so you can prevent the smoke from seeping in. 


Never open a window with a fire in the house and the doors open. You should open the window only slightly, with the door closed, and use something bright to attract the attention of rescuers. The small gap will also give you fresh air to breathe in. 


Treating smoke inhalation

In most cases, the main treatment is simply oxygen. You’ll be given oxygen before going to the hospital and while in the hospital. Those with extreme difficulty breathing due to the smoke inhalation will need to be intubated. It can be frightening, but it’s possible to heal your lungs with plenty of oxygen. 


The best way to survive a fire is to prevent it in the first place. However, if there is a fire, you want as much warning as early as possible so you can get out of the house rapidly. Having smoke and fire alarms throughout the house is essential and you need to test them regularly and check the batteries. The alarms could save your life.


Need to know more about fire safety and prevention? Contact EK Fire Protection to learn more.

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