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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Smoke inhalation is when you breathe in harmful smoke from burning materials and gases. This harmful smoke may contain chemicals or poisons, such as carbon monoxide and cyanide. When you inhale this harmful smoke, your lungs and airways may become irritated, swollen, and blocked. The damaged airways and lungs prevent oxygen from getting into your blood, and respiratory failure may develop. Respiratory failure means you cannot breathe well enough to get oxygen to the cells of your body.
- Bronchodilators: You may need bronchodilators to help open the air passages in your lungs, and help you breathe more easily.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
- Breathing exercises: You may feel short of breath when you are active. The following are breathing exercises that may help you breathe more easily:
- Breathe out with pursed or puckered lips (like playing the trumpet).
- Breathe using your diaphragm. Put one hand on your abdomen and breathe in, causing your hand to move outward or upward. Your lungs will have more room to get bigger and to take in more air.
- Deep breathing: This exercise should be done once an hour to keep you from getting a lung infection. Deep breathing opens the tubes going to your lungs. Slowly take a deep breath and hold the breath as long as you can. Then let out your breath. Take 10 deep breaths in a row every hour while awake. You may be asked to use an incentive spirometer to help you with this. Put the plastic piece into your mouth and slowly take a breath as deep and as long as you can. Hold your breath as long as you can. Then, let out your breath.
- Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen to help you breathe easier. It may be given through a plastic mask over your mouth and nose. It may be given through a nasal cannula, or prongs, instead of a mask. A nasal cannula is a pair of short, thin tubes that rest just inside your nose. Tell your caregiver if your nose gets dry or if you get redness or sores on your skin. Never smoke or let anyone else smoke in the same room while your oxygen is on. Doing so may cause a fire.
- Special positions while sleeping: You may have trouble breathing when lying down. Sleeping in a position with your upper body raised may help you breathe easier. You can use foam wedges or elevate the head of your bed. There are many devices that you can buy to help raise your upper body while in bed. Use a device that will tilt your whole body, or bend your body at the waist. The device should not bend your body at the upper back or neck.
Prevent smoke inhalation:
- To prevent fires, make sure that electrical wiring, chimneys, wood stoves, and space heaters are working properly. Use flammable liquids safely and store them in a locked area out of the reach of children.
- Do not leave lit cigarettes unattended, and discard them properly. Keep cigarette lighters and matches in a safe place where children cannot reach them.
- Make an escape plan in case a fire breaks out in your home. Practice it often with your family. Crawl on the floor to escape a burning building. The air will be cooler and clearer.
- Use smoke detectors in your house, and check them regularly to make sure they are working.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You cough up or vomit blood.
- You have a fast heartbeat and chest pain.
- You have increased shortness of breath.
- You have weakness, and pale and clammy skin.
- You have wheezing.
- Your lips or fingernails turn blue.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.