Topic Overview

It is common to cough for a few minutes after breathing in smoke or
fumes from a fire. Your breathing should return to normal within a short period
of time, about 30 minutes. If your breathing does not return to normal or if your
breathing is getting worse instead of improving, it is important to think about
whether you are having breathing difficulties because of smoke
inhalation.

Smoke inhalation may occur in any fire. It is more likely to occur if
you:

  • Were trapped in an enclosed space with smoke and
    fumes.
  • Have soot around your nose or mouth.
  • Have facial
    burns.
  • Have singed nasal hairs.
  • Have breathed in smoke
    from burning man-made materials.

Symptoms of smoke inhalation include:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Noisy
    breathing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Hoarse voice, trouble speaking,
    or inability to speak in full
    sentences.
  • Cough.
  • Dark-colored mucus from the nose or
    mouth.
  • Change in mental state, such as restlessness, agitation,
    confusion, or sleepiness (lethargy).

More serious smoke inhalation causes swelling (edema) in the air
passages. This swelling can also hurt the vocal cords, making it hard for the
person to talk.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious concern with
smoke inhalation injuries.

If smoke inhalation causes serious symptoms, or if you have any
high-risk conditions such as asthma or chronic lung disease, evaluation by a
doctor is needed.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP – Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology

Current as ofMay 7, 2017