Understanding Inhalation Burn Injuries

By January 12, 2018Burn Injuries

It is a common assumption that fires and extreme heat events primarily cause injury to parts of the human body that are exposed, such as arms, legs, and the face and head. The fact is that inhalation burn injuries can be quite severe, and even deadly. Breathing in smoke is the leading cause of death due to fires, and those victims who do survive often experience such long-term medical conditions as pneumonia, pulmonary dysfunction, and related complications. In addition, the location of an inhalation burn injury makes it difficult to treat, leading to a slower recovery process. Unlike cutaneous wounds, it is not possible to excise damaged tissue and implement skin grafts. If you have suffered burns from inhaling smoke, this helpful information may answer your initial questions.

What Are Inhalation Burn Injuries?

The National Institutes of Health defines an inhalation burn as an injury to the lungs, throat, and/or respiratory passages, resulting from inhalation of smoke or the toxic products of chemical combustion. On physical examination, there may be facial burns, mouth burns and throat burns, and sooty sputum and mucus.

Indications of deeper inhalation burns, which impact the lower respiratory tract, include:

  • Coughing;
  • Reduced breathing ability;
  • Wheezing;
  • Labored breathing;
  • A rattling sound in the lungs; and,
  • Other abnormalities.

How do inhalation injuries occur?

The injury may be caused by thermal factors, which means that exposure to heat caused the burn. Open flames or steam are common causes. Inhaling a chemical in gas form can also produce burn injuries, such as from:

  • Cyanide;
  • Carbon monoxide;
  • Sulfur mustard;
  • Chlorine; and,
  • Many other gaseous hazardous substances.

What should I do if I suffer inhalation burns?

As you would with any serious injury, seek appropriate medical care if you experience an inhalation burn. With this type of injury, a healthcare provider will typically initiate treatment by assessing your airways, breathing capabilities, and circulation. You may also be given supplemental oxygen, as one of the biggest medical concerns after an inhalation burn is that it limits your ability to bring oxygen into your body and pass it on to the bloodstream.

After you address your immediate health concerns and engage in a care plan as recommended by your healthcare provider, you should speak with an attorney if your injury was a result of negligence. Considering that inhalation burns are quite serious, your medical expenses and pain and suffering will be significant. You may be entitled to compensation from the responsible party, and a burn injury lawyer can offer advice on your options.

Are there ways to prevent inhalation burn injuries?

The best way to prevent inhalation injury is to avoid the risk factors, such as open flames, steam, and toxic chemicals. In an emergency situation, this may not be possible, so your best prevention strategy is to cover your mouth and nose with a cloth.

Consult with an Experienced South Carolina Inhalation Burn Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one suffered inhalation burn injuries, please contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Walker Morgan. Our lawyers have been helping burn injury victims obtain compensation for their losses for decades, and we can help you, too.

Will Walker

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