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Smoke Inhalation

Smoke Inhalation is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Suspect smoke inhalation in anyone involved in a fire within a closed space or with a history of loss of consciousness.
  • May cause direct injury to the upper (supraglottic) airway structures
  • May cause chemical/irritant effect to lower airway structures
  • May cause systemic toxicity from inhaled substances


  • Direct heat injury from heated gases/smoke:
    • Limited to supraglottic structures because of the heat-dissipating properties of the upper airway
  • Irritant effect from smoke components
  • Systemic toxicity from inhaled cellular toxins:
    • Carbon monoxide
    • Hydrogen cyanide

Inhalation of steam can be rapidly fatal:
  • Steam has ∼4,000 times the heat-carrying capacity of hot air.
  • Can rapidly cause obstructive glottic edema, thermally induced tracheitis, and hemorrhagic edema of the bronchial mucosa

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Smoke Inhalation." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307453/all/Smoke_Inhalation.
Smoke Inhalation. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307453/all/Smoke_Inhalation. Accessed April 22, 2019.
Smoke Inhalation. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307453/all/Smoke_Inhalation
Smoke Inhalation [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 22]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307453/all/Smoke_Inhalation.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Smoke Inhalation ID - 307453 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307453/all/Smoke_Inhalation PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -