• First Aid Tips for Wildfire Smoke Inhalation

    Smoke inhalation is a serious concern for those in the path of a wildfire. Excessive exposure to smoke can lead to significant respiratory problems and other medical issues, and can even result in death. In fact, smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death in a fire situation.

    As wildfires can move swiftly and their smoke can hang for miles, you are at increased risk for smoke exposure and inhalation problems, even if the fire isn’t nearby. It is important to know what to do in the event you or a household member starts suffering ill effects from wildfire smoke. Understanding the proper first-aid techniques for helping a victim can mean the difference between life and death.


    Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation


    Smoke Inhalation Coughing


    Wildfire smoke can affect the lungs, eyes, and even your skin. Common symptoms of smoke inhalation may include:

    • Difficulty breathing
    • Frequent coughing
    • Breath that smells smoky
    • Black residue in nose or mouth
    • Red, irritated, or watery eyes
    • Irritated, itchy skin

    Recognizing these signs early in yourself and others will help victims get the prompt attention they need to successfully survive the situation.


    First Aid Tips for Treating Smoke Inhalation

    If you recognize smoke-related issues in a household member, you need to:


    Call for Emergency Assistance

    If your phones are still working, dial 911 immediately. There may be delays in accessing your location due to wildfires in the area, but the dispatcher can provide you with additional advice for treating the victim until help can arrive.


    Get Out of the Smoke

    Bring the person inside, provided the air quality indoors is still safe. If not safe, evacuate immediately to a local shelter or hospital.


    Checking Breathing

    If the person is conscious, ask them questions about how they are feeling. If they are in and out of consciousness or unable to talk, take note of how the person is breathing. Check their airways for black residue and perform a pulse check.


    Perform CPR

    If the person is not breathing, you should start CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation) as necessary. Report unconsciousness to 911 immediately.


    Supply Oxygen


    Smoke Inhalation Oxygen mask


    If you have a respirator mask with oxygen in your emergency supply kit, use it as soon as possible to provide fresh oxygen to the victim.


    Stay Alert to Changes

    Remain alert to behavioral changes in the person. Shock is possible in smoke inhalation victims so keep them in a semi-seated position to ensure good air intake.


    Check for Injuries

    If the victim fell down or fainted due to excessive smoke inhalation, check their bodies for broken bones, bleeding wounds, or other injuries. Administer first aid to clean up wounds. If broken bones are suspected, avoid moving the victim if possible.

    As victims take in fresh oxygen, they should regain a little energy but may still appear to be disoriented and irritable. The effects of smoke inhalation can have an unpredictable impact on the brain, even causing violent behavior in the aftermath. Medical treatment from experienced professionals should be a first priority after initial first aid is given.


    Disaster_Blog_Banner Smoke Inhalation

  • Wildfire Smoke: Know Your Risks

    Wildfires spread fast and furiously, filling the environment with thick, heavy smoke. Even if you’re far away from the fire, you still need to be prepared and protect yourself from the toxic smoke. Smoke inhalation from wildfires adversely affects your health in both the short and long-term. As part of your wildfire emergency preparedness plan, you need to ensure your family’s respiratory health is well-protected while you shelter at home or during your evacuation.


    What’s in wildfire smoke?


    Wildfire smoke forest fire


    Smoke borne from wildfire contains debris from burning wood and other organic material. It also contains a mixture of various gases. While the smoke itself can cause burning eye irritation and make it difficult to breathe, it is the fine particles of debris that are most dangerous to your health. These enter your lungs each time you breathe, triggering allergic reactions and existing lung diseases. If you already suffer from chronic heart or other medical conditions, wildfire smoke can worsen your health problems significantly.


    Who is most affected by wildfire smoke?

    Heavy wildfire smoke affects everyone, causing breathing issues and eye irritation. It can also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning if you remain in a smoky environment for too long. People with already-compromised immune or respiratory systems are at increased risk for becoming ill from wildfire smoke.

    It is vitally important you have additional wildfire emergency equipment, including breathing apparatus for those who:

    • Suffer from lung or heart disease
    • Have diabetes
    • Have asthma
    • Are pregnant

    Young children and the elderly are also at increased risk for wildfire smoke-related health problems. People with developing or debilitated respiratory systems require a higher oxygen intake, allowing more harmful particles to enter their lungs.


    How to Prevent Wildfire Smoke-Related Health Issues



    wildfire smoke mask


    When a wildfire is in the area, it is important to stay on top of the latest events of the wildfire using a weather radio. Knowing where the fire is at all times is important because fires travel fast, leaving you little time to prepare before evacuation. This is what makes pre-planning for such an emergency so important. Local authorities will also issue air quality reports through local news outlets or on government sites like

    Other prevention tips:


    Stay Indoors

    In advance of an approaching wildfire, make sure all of your windows, doors, and vents are closed. Don’t burn anything indoors, including candles and fireplaces, to reduce pollution inside. Stay indoors, unless it is extremely hot outside. Use an indoor air cleaner to keep the indoor air as clean as possible. You can run your air conditioners but make sure filters are clean to prevent bringing the smoke indoors. If there is a loss of power, evacuate.

    Evacuation Readiness

    As part of your emergency plan, you must be ready to evacuate the area if you have high-risk family members who are susceptible to smoke-related health problems. Pre-plan a meeting location away from the fires, such as a hotel, family member’s home, or a shelter.


    The Right Equipment

    Keep a supply of respirator masks in your wildfire supply kit. The masks are designed to prevent small particles from entering your mouth and lungs. For those with compromised health, having an oxygen mask will further prevent smoke inhalation and make it easier for them to breathe during the chaos. Anyone in the household with asthma should have access to inhalers and other medication.

    The more prepared you are to deal with the emergencies a wildfire creates, the more likely you are to avoid additional health complications caused by inhaling smoke and debris.

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