Inhalation Burn Injury


An inhalation injury is when an individual is trapped in an enclosed space for some time with toxic gas or fumes produced by a fire, a leak, chemicals etc.. An inhalation injury from irritant gases: ammonia, formaldehyde, chloramine, chlorine, nitrogen dioxide and phosgene produce a chemical burn and an inflammatory response. General signs are a combination of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, irritation or running of eyes or nose, chest or abdominal pain, or skin irritation. More severe symptoms include confusion and narcosis. Symptoms can develop instantaneously or after as much as a day. During a physical examination, by a doctor, the burn survivor may smell of the agent or be covered with soot. Inflammation of the eyes, nose, mouth may be visible. Pulmonary irritation may be apparent when you cough or wheeze.

What Should I do:

  1. While waiting for the paramedics. If the burn victim is stable, remove their clothes, hosing the individual down, or shower him or her with soap and water.
  2. Make sure the burn victim is breathing adequately.
  3. Look for verification that may help identify the exposure: Was there a fire? What was burning? What was the estimated length of exposure? Did it occur in an open or a closed area? What material is on the burn victim? What does he/she smell of? Inform the paramedics, firefighter, police and hospital of your findings.
  4. The burn victim or witnesses should inform the paramedics and doctors of any pre-existing conditions tell the paramedics.

What You Should Not Do:

Do not assume the burn victim is all right following an inhalation injury simply because they are breathing, able to get up and talking. Some agents produce pulmonary inflammation which develops over 12 to 24 hours.