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Smoke Inhalation: Care Instructions

Respiratory system from throat to lungs, showing bronchial tubes inside lung.

Your Care Instructions

Breathing in hot air, smoke, or chemical fumes can cause irritation or swelling in your air passages. Being in or near a fire can cause wheezing and breathing problems. You may not notice these problems until several hours later. Inhaling smoke or other irritants can also poison your body. This is more likely if plastics or synthetic materials were burned.

You probably had a blood test and other tests that measured how your lungs were working. You may have had a blood gas test to measure the amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and acid in your blood. Your doctor may have given you oxygen through a mask to help you breathe.

You may have a cough, shortness of breath, and pain while you heal. If you inhaled soot, you may cough up grey or black mucus.

Follow-up care is a key part of your 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 you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get plenty of rest and sleep. You may feel weak and tired for a while, but your energy level will improve with time. Prop up your head on pillows to help you breathe and ease a cough.
  • Suck on cough drops or hard candy to soothe a dry or sore throat. Cough drops do not stop a cough.
  • Take cough medicine if your doctor tells you to.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Avoid things that may irritate your lungs. This might include cold, dry air or hot, humid air.
  • If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine to make breathing easier, such as a bronchodilator or inhaled corticosteroid, use it exactly as directed.
  • If you were given a spirometer to measure how well your lungs are working, use it as instructed. This can help your doctor tell how your recovery is going.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You have trouble breathing.

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

  • You cough up yellow, dark brown, or bloody mucus.
  • Your coughing or wheezing gets worse.

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

  • You do 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.