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Smoke Inhalation

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.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Rest:

Keep the head of your bed raised to help you breathe easier. You can also raise your head and shoulders up on pillows or rest in a reclining chair. If you feel short of breath, let caregivers know right away.

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.

Intake and output:

Caregivers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day. Ask caregivers if they need to measure or collect your urine.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Neurologic exam:

This is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show caregivers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Caregivers will check how your pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.

A pulse oximeter

is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine.

Medicines:

  • Antidotes: These are substances that may stop or control the effects of the harmful smoke you inhaled. Caregivers may give different antidotes depending on the type of smoke you inhaled.
  • Bronchodilators: You may need bronchodilators to help open the air passages in your lungs, and help you breathe more easily.
  • Steroids: Steroid medicine may help to open your air passages so you can breathe easier.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell caregivers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.

Tests:

  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.
  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Bronchoscopy: This is a procedure to look inside your airway and learn the cause of your airway or lung condition. A bronchoscope (thin tube with a light) is inserted into your mouth and moved down your throat to your airway. You may be given medicine to numb your throat and help you relax during the procedure. Tissue and fluid may be collected from your airway or lungs to be tested.
  • Chest x-ray: Caregivers may use the x-rays to look for lung damage and signs of infection, such as pneumonia.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your lungs. The pictures may show lung damage. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Pulmonary function tests: Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) help caregivers learn how well your body uses oxygen. You breathe into a mouthpiece connected to a machine. The machine measures how much air you breathe in and out over a certain amount of time. PFTs help your caregivers decide the best treatment for you.
  • V/Q Scan: This is a ventilation (V) and perfusion (Q) test. This test is also called a VP scan. A V/Q scan is a two-part test in which pictures of your lungs are taken to look for certain lung problems. During the perfusion part of the test, radioactive dye is put into your vein. Your blood carries the dye to the blood vessels in your lungs. Pictures are taken to see how blood flows in your lungs. During the ventilation part of the test, you breathe in a special gas. Pictures are taken to see how well your lungs take in oxygen.

Treatment:

  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: This is also called HBO. HBO is used to get more oxygen into your body. The oxygen is given under pressure to help it get into your tissues and blood. You may be put into a tube-like chamber called a hyperbaric or pressure chamber. You will be able to see your caregivers and talk with them through a speaker. You may need to have this therapy more than once.
  • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your windpipe.

RISKS:

Smoke inhalation is a serious injury, and treatment is needed as soon as possible. If it is not treated early, the smoke may damage your lungs and cause breathing problems. Your lungs may become infected, swollen, and filled with fluid. Fluid in the lungs causes severe shortness of breath and may lead to respiratory failure. This may affect your heart and brain, and it may be life-threatening. Even with treatment, you may have permanent lung damage.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.

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