Inhalation Burns

Always assume inhalation injury if there are burns to the face, nasal hairs, eyebrows, or eyelashes. Coughing of black particles in sputum, hoarse voice and/or breathing difficulties may indicate damage to the airway.

An inhalation burn should be suspected when an individual is trapped in an enclosed space for some time with hot or toxic gas, steam or fumes produced by a fire, chemicals etc. An inhalation injury may result from irritant gases such as ammonia, formaldehyde, chloramines, chlorine, nitrogen dioxide and phosgene. These agents produce a chemical burn and an inflammatory response.

DO NOT assume the burn victim is stable following an inhalation injury simply because the victim is breathing, talking and able to get up. Some agents produce delayed pulmonary inflammation which may develop up to 24 hours later.

Management of inhalation burns

  • Remove to fresh air.
  • Assess and manage the airway.
  • Give oxygen if trained to do so.
  • Call for an ambulance.