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Smoke Inhalation in Children: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Breathing in hot air, smoke, or chemical fumes can cause irritation or swelling in your child's airways. Being in or near a fire can cause wheezing and breathing problems. Your child may not notice these problems until several hours later. When your child inhales smoke, harmful toxins may get into your child's body. This is more likely if the smoke came from burning plastics or synthetic materials.

Your child may have had a blood test and other tests that measured how the lungs were working. Your child may have had a blood gas test. This measures the amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide in the blood. Your doctor may have given your child oxygen through a mask to help him or her breathe.

Your child may have a cough, shortness of breath, and pain while healing. If your child inhaled soot, he or she may cough up grey or black mucus.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child get plenty of rest and sleep. Your child may feel weak and tired for a while, but his or her energy level will improve with time. Prop up your child's head on pillows to help ease a cough and help with breathing.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.
  • Help your child avoid things that may irritate the lungs. This might include cold, dry air or hot, humid air.
  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine to make breathing easier, have your child use it exactly as directed. This may include a bronchodilator or inhaled steroid medicine.
  • If your child was given a spirometer to measure how well the lungs are working, help him or her use it as instructed. This can help your doctor tell how your child's recovery is going.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse trouble breathing.
  • Your child coughs up dark brown or bloody mucus (sputum).
  • Your child's coughing or wheezing gets worse.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.