First Aid for Smoke Inhalation: What You Need to Know

Smoke inhalation is a serious medical emergency that can lead to severe respiratory problems, including bronchitis, asthma, and even death. In fact, smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fire-related injuries. Knowing what to do in the event of smoke inhalation can make all the difference in the world. Here, we will discuss the symptoms of smoke inhalation, what to do if someone is experiencing smoke inhalation, and some frequently asked questions about this medical emergency.

Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation

The symptoms of smoke inhalation can vary depending on the severity of the exposure. Some common symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Hoarse voice
  • Soot in the mouth or nose
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • In severe cases, smoke inhalation can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.

What to Do if Someone is Experiencing Smoke Inhalation

If you or someone else is experiencing smoke inhalation, it is important to act quickly. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Move to a safe area: Get away from the source of the smoke and into a well-ventilated area. Fresh air can help to clear the lungs and make breathing easier.
  • Call for help: Call 911 or your local emergency services as soon as possible. Time is of the essence in cases of smoke inhalation, so it is important to get medical attention quickly.
  • Monitor breathing: While waiting for medical help to arrive, monitor the person’s breathing. If they stop breathing, perform CPR immediately.
  • Remove clothing: If clothing is contaminated with smoke, remove it to prevent further exposure to the toxins.
  • Do not administer medication: Do not give the person any medication, including aspirin or ibuprofen. This can worsen the symptoms of smoke inhalation.


Q: How long does it take for smoke inhalation symptoms to appear?

A: Symptoms of smoke inhalation can appear immediately or within a few hours of exposure.

Q: Is smoke inhalation more dangerous than burns?

A: Smoke inhalation can be more dangerous than burns because it can cause damage to the respiratory system, which can lead to long-term health problems.

Q: Can smoke inhalation cause long-term health problems?

A: Yes, smoke inhalation can cause long-term health problems, including respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer.

Q: Can a mask protect you from smoke inhalation?

A: A mask can provide some protection from smoke inhalation, but it is not foolproof. The best way to protect yourself from smoke inhalation is to avoid exposure to smoke altogether.


  • “Smoke Inhalation.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2 Mar. 2022,
  • “Smoke Inhalation Injury: Treatment and Management.” StatPearls, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 9 Dec. 2021,
  • “Smoke Inhalation.” American Lung Association, 2022,
  • “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Smoke from Wildfires.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Dec. 2021,

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